Posted on Thursday, April 3 @ 13:26:50 Eastern by Nicholas Tan
Have you heard of GAME_JAM? No? Well, that's probably because this reality TV show created by Polaris doesn't exist, at least not anymore due to terrible, terrible decisions by the production and mainly one epic douchebag.
According to Indiestatik's Jared Rosen (embedded images also from his article), an on-site reporter with extensive experience documenting the indie development scene and who also contracts out to Maker's Polaris, the massive rebellious walk-out by the participants on the show was understandable and perhaps inevitable. In fact, Rosen fears for his own job as well:
Maybe I’ll walk away from this unscathed. Maybe not. But either way, I have a job to do, and I intend to do it to the best of my ability.
This is the story of the most expensive, most highly-produced game jam in the history of the video game industry, and how it was dismantled by a single man.
Before GAME_JAM ever became anything close to a reality show, it intended to highlight eleven developers, all flown in to Los Angeles for the shoot, as they struggle to create a game in a ridiculously short amount of time but conquering the challenge with a "closely-knit spirit of togetherness unique to indie development."
But this documentary-styled production soon became bogged down with major sponsorships and resembled something "more docu-tainment" with various gimmicks, like irrelevant branded prizes from sponsors, four teams of Jammers (developers) and Gamers (YouTubers), and a reality-show slant "about creating drama for sake of the audience." What do "arts and crafts, physical challenges, and competitive gaming" have to do with actually developing a game? Who the hell knows...
How much more awful can this possibly get? Let us count the ways:
1. An initial contract that would ban the developers from the doing any promotion of their own work during the airing of the show, as that would be "competition"; would allow for "willful misrepresentation [of the developers] for the sake of drama"; and would force developers who lived less than 200 miles away to participate in Maker's interviews without having their travel expenses repaid.
Luckily, many of these clauses were changed after negotiation, but that didn't start the show on a good note for any of the developers. That said, legal battles like these were expected.
2. Strange sponsored prizes that ranged from Mountain Dew "Dew Packs" to a free pass into Microsoft's Xbox One indie developer program, a pass which Joe Vargas and Kellee Santiago of thatgamecompany, Zoe, Davey Wreden, Tom Jackson, Adriel Wallick, Robin Arnott, Cale Bradbury, the Arcane Kids, and a three-man student team from USC don't really need. But whatever, they could deal with this, but then...
3. A "Pepsi Consultant" otherwise known as "Matti" who demanded that no one on site could drink anything that wasn't water or Mountain Dew. Nope, not even coffee was allowed. The push for branding became a laughable but severely un-laughable situation:
Davey was forced to take off his nail polish because he couldn’t hold the can with it on. Zoe had to take off the buttons she usually wears on her jacket, but shouted down a PA who tried to make her cover her tattoos. The Arcane Kids were screamed at for not holding bottles right, while the entire group was lectured on how to properly smile like you’re enjoying the product – a product that everyone was enjoying less and less. The slow train wreck of faces flipping into scowls marked only the beginning of what would soon turn into an utter shitshow.
4. Matti wanting to push the conflict between Zoe and JonTron after the "backlash of Depression Quest appearing on Steam Greenlight". Matti actually cornered Jon in a room so that he could "get him to speak poorly of Zoe," an interview attempt that failed and only made Jon "furious."
5. All of the computers, loaded with unregistered copies of Premiere and thereby laden with viruses, crapping out on set. YouTubers headsets having lower quality than their cellphones.
6. And finally, the pièce de résistance (and not in a good way), the following question posed by Matti (once again) to the developers:
Two of the other teams have women on them. Do you think they’re at a disadvantage?
None of the developer contestants thought this was an issue and praised that games with female developers might have an advantage with different viewpoints. But this answer only served to frustrate Matti who told the cameraman to stop filming because "We're not getting a story here." Rosen summarizes this entire situation thoroughly:
It went on down the line. Is Zoe off her game? Are women coders a disadvantage to their groups? Point by point, the questions were shot down, until he reached Adriel’s team and asked if they were at any sort of advantage by having a pretty girl with them.
I cannot begin to impress upon you the psychological effect this line had on everyone. The idea that these professionals, who stake their livelihoods on code and design, might be reduced to “pretty faces” and antiquated gender stereotypes, an idea perpetuated by the guy who was ostensibly in charge, was like hitting the biggest nerve in the history of nerves with a pneumatic drill.
Conclusion? Zoe, Adriel, and Robin were completely disgusted. Matti was fired. Polaris and Maker tried to pick up the pieces from the fallout, but it was too late. Four hundred thousand dollars down the toilet. An intricate set dismantled. Food from caterers in the garbage.
The only positive, from a negotiation between the participants and the production, was "a hypothetical compromise way down the line, one that would stay true to the original spirit of the show." However, tthe damage was done. Game Over. The devs banded together and Maker, Polaris, and Mountain Dew would have to pay the consequences.
Pretty much all of the developers went home or to Disneyland. Not a bad idea, but I'm not sure if even "the happiest place on Earth" could salvage this all-around, and-let's-call-it-what-it-is... epic clusterfuck.