The Game Breaker’s Toolkit Jam Produces Hideous Abominations No One Should Play, But I Did
The most often repeated piece of advice I’ve heard on how to get into the video game industry is to make video games. Game jams are designed to do just that – get people making games. Game jams are events where people get together and make games, sometimes in teams, sometimes alone, and normally with a time limit of a few days. They’re meant to encourage people to just throw caution to the wind, forget perfection, and just create something.
Some amazing games have come from game jams – Surgeon Simulator, Superhot, The Binding Of Isaac, and Spelunky, to name a few. The Game Breaker’s Toolkit Jam aims to throw caution even further to the wind and sets creators the goal of making the worst game imaginable. I played some of the games from the most recent jam so that you never have to.
I have to admit, I did not anticipate my editor asking me to play some deliberately bad games today, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. It’s not all free consoles and early copies of games. More often than not, it’s barely playable itch.io games.
This game jam reminded me a lot of Flash games I used to play as a kid. Games like The Impossible Quiz or I Wanna Be The Guy were designed to be frustrating and weird, basically trial and error. But they made players think outside of the box, and they were really fun to play with friends because you could watch them suffer, and we all love that.
Although people – myself included – will call the games made by participants of the Game Breaker’s jam “horrifying” and “abominations” and “not fit for human play”, they’re still useful because they get people making games.
First up was Ball Dude Adventure. It’s worth noting that the judging criteria for these games included frustration, unfairness, and confusion. This game had all of those things in spades. The tutorial is a Star Wars-style text scroll so painfully slow I couldn’t finish it. It took an actual few minutes for it to tell me I had to press ‘5’ to skip it. It then took another minute or two to tell me I needed to press ‘control’ at the same time. Off to a frustrating and confusing start.
The game itself was barely a game. A spinning image of a crudely made tennis ball – that was square-shaped – fires off and smashes through blocks. It’s a bit like Brick Breaker on an old BlackBerry. The catch is that every time the “ball” hits something it speeds up a tiny bit. The level ends once it hits some sort of terminal, game-breaking velocity. If you break all the blocks you win, if you didn’t, you lose. I have no idea if the ball can be controlled because I couldn’t make it through the mind-numbingly slow tutorial.
The game forces you to take a step back and relinquish control, like we often have to do in real life. It teaches that trying to regain control is futile, and, ultimately, winning or losing is nothing more than an arbitrary distinction made by some unseen force. An eye-opening experience.
What Do I? was the strangely titled second game I tried out. It’s a 2D platformer where you play as a large mouse cursor and hop over text boxes that say ‘AD’. It’s a funny premise that evokes memories of a life before adblocking plugins, where every button was a pop-up in disguise.
The platforming is actually pretty solid. Jumping and moving work well and you can bounce on the ads to kill them. Proceeding through the game is hard though. At the end of each level you sort of just fall off into the abyss. On the first level I just went under the stage and somehow got to level two, but after falling off of that I was just kind of stuck down there. Unable to see my cursor or figure out where to go.
I think this game was trying to teach me that life is very often a leap of faith. Sometimes it works out, despite not knowing where to go, you end up where you were always meant to be. Other times you just stumble round in the gutter until you give up.
I was in a platforming mood so next up was Really Cool Awesome Platformer, which sounded promising. For the life of me, I could not figure out how to get the game to work. I could bounce my cube but that was it. No button press or mouse click could get me to move the cube to the right and down into the rest of the level. All it did was bounce. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
Finally, Snak, a fresh take on the Nokia classic, Snake. Rather than collection little bits of food to elongate your snake, you have to avoid things and survive for as long as possible. The snake in Snak is made of Dababy faces, a meme I’m honestly not familiar with. The game makes sense and is almost a normal game – within reason – but then every now and again the controls get reversed and you press the wrong button and it’s game over. Also, the soundtrack is a weird remixed Among Us meme song and there’s an Imposter twerking in the background.
This game is an absurd fever dream that rejects any classical interpretation. It is a true postmodern synthesis of surrealist and avant-garde pop-culture memes.
Ultimately, all of these games have actual physics, art, text, controls, and audio, which is more than I can say for most of the things I’ve tried to make. They’re proof that having the courage to just make something is better than sitting around and trying to come up with something perfect. If you want to make games, make them. Just, maybe polish them a bit before you throw them into a portfolio. The submissions for the jam are still open, so either check out what’s on offer or submit something yourself.
Next: The Best Thing About VR Isn’t Immersion, It’s Human Error
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Issy is an avid film lover, writer, and game-player based in the UK. He combines his love of film and games in his writing, trying to find as many connections between the two mediums as possible. When he’s not writing, playing, or watching, Issy loves to DJ and look after his growing collection of houseplants, as they make him feel more adult.
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