The problem with the gamejams

Every two weeks Media Molecule issues a Gamejam. There are no real prizes, other than to have your level stamped with a Winner, Top 10 or Top 25% sticker. The idea I believe is to get everyone creative, and also to fill the Dreamiverse up with a variety of things. All in all I think it is a great idea, and as long as people do not take it too seriously and get worked up about who won and who didn’t then it is a welcome addition to Dreams.

Except, people are of course interested in who won, and have their own opinions on it. The latest Gamejam has shown up something that was always the case, but as we get more and more assets available in the Dreamiverse, the more this will happen. The second place winner did not make anything in their level. It consists of 4 assets, placed to create a moving artwork.The artwork looks superb. However,  a large part of their level (a ship at sea) was in fact an entry by another creator, who did not get such a high ranking in the Gamejam. It would have taken less than a minute to set it up. So do they deserve their place? Was enough done to justify calling this a new artwork?

When you vote on the gamejam you do not see the level name, creators name, assets used, whether it is a remix, or even a description. A really good sculpt from months ago could be entered into a Gamejam by a random person who did not make it, and did not change it in any way to call it a “remix”. The people voting have no idea who has posted it and is judging it on its merits. Is it fair then that the “thief” (emotive word I know, okay I will say “acquirer”) gets their name in the Hall of Fame? Should we care? No money is exchanging hands. Does it matter?

It will depend entirely on whether this sort of thing becomes the norm. If remixes become top 10 finishers consistently then something will probably need to be done, because it is a little off-putting for original creators – and it may prevent them from entering in the first place. Also it may stop creators from sharing their objects as assets, instead sharing playable Dreams instead.

My personal bugbear with the Gamejam is that people totally ignore the theme and post any old thing up. Luckily it appears that Media Molecule remove those from the running. Should they then remove levels where everything is an asset from someone else? Well, no, many amazing levels are made from using assets from the Dreamiverse, a blanket ban on that would be proposterous (unless of course that was the rules of the Gamejam). I think we will have to put up with it. Be careful with your voting is all I can say. If you recognise a lot of assets from multiple creators and that puts you off then dont vote for it – but be aware that most people wont know, and this level could very well win. Maybe creators can feel proud that their work is represented in a winning level, but I can understand why they might be mightily annoyed.

2 thoughts on “The problem with the gamejams

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  1. This is clearly a problem that MM has probably not fully appreciated and exists as an unintended consequence. Hopefully they are listening to you.

    I also think these “jams” are something of an exploitation of the community to feature free user output to promote Dreams without some tangible reward (which could be something as simple as a T-shirt or stuffed animal version of Connie).

    Finally, serious art in the art world is usually juried for quality and not left to a popular vote. Which tells me these “jams” aren’t to be taken seriously and I for one pay no attention to them. Unfortunately, I note some of the really good achievements in Dreams are not available for remix. I don’t blame their creators. I suspect at some future date the really good stuff will be monetized and MM will be getting a deserved cut. Marketplaces are proven engines of innovation, recognition, and reward.

    The Dreamiverse would do well to come down to earth at times. Amateur open-source enthusiasm is charming and has a strong feel-good quality to it, but Dreams could benefit from infusions of compensated professionalism that won’t necessarily taint the product’s ethos. Unity and Unreal Engine enjoy robust hybrid communities, for example. No reason for Dreams not to do the same.

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    1. I think “exploitation” might be a strong term for what is happening here. Yes, this is being used for marketing in Dreams, but then anything that has some quality is being used as a marketing tool. The idea that competitions must have some sort of prize is more prevalent across the pond than in Britain. I think we Brits are more used to winning being the only reward, and are happy to enter competitions without monetary or physical prizes without feeling we are being exploited. We take part for the fun. What is not fun is the thought that you are competing in an unfair environment where people are literally conning their way to the top. I am not sure what the solution for this is, other than to remove the “blind” voting so we can see if a level is a remix or original work and how many assets from other people are involved. I would like to see some jams where you are not allowed to use other peoples assets, and other jams where you are required to remix something provided by Media Molecule.

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