GAMERella: The "Boss Up" Women's Game Jam

Long time no cybersee! Hope you’ve all been doing well as winter slowly creeps in and takes over. This week I wanted to share my thoughts on the final event I went to for the She Got Game documentary.


Wait, no...


Wait, no...

GAMERella! Ok phew, that was it. 

This was a pretty big game jam run by the women working at the TAG lab at Concordia (the same ones who ran Boob Jam.) There was actually a sister event being run at the same time in NYC by The Code Liberation Foundation which is co-directed by Nina Freeman (read a post on her work here.)

The theme of the jam was “Boss Up” and we got an awesome introduction to this topic by indie game creator Kara Stone. If you’re unfamiliar with her work, it’s totally worth checking out.

Kara explained how the initial idea for the jam was inspired by a Nicki Minaj video where she asks, "Why should I be called a bitch when I'm being assertive but a man is called a boss?" 

There’s kind of this problem out there where women who are assertive or ambitious or outspoken are labelled as bitches. This is a problem for women in all kinds of situations and careers right? As an independent artist, this topic really hits home for me. You have to be self-promotional. You have to be assertive to get anywhere and to get anyone to pay attention to you work. And you have to be comfortable delegating tasks unless you can somehow manage to do everything by yourself all the time. 

So Boss Up seemed like an appropriate starting point for the jam, also because the word is linked to gaming of course!

I ended up in a group with 4 cool ladies: Nicole Aouad, Kara Stone, Kim Hoang and Maeve Levasseur. Each of us had a pretty different skill set and experience level, so it was the ideal group environment to get something like this started. 

If you have the right hardware, anything can be made into a controller. All you need is something conductive on the object so that the response can be fed back to the computer. Kim threw out the idea that we should do something with a pink wig and high heels. That set the ball rolling.

Coding. Shopping. Drawing. Sewing. TA-DA!

Nicki Homaj: a tongue-in-cheek game where you’re dressed up as a Nicki Minaj-type character and you’re fighting off annoying comments by a jerky guy by flipping your fancy pink hair and stomping your feet (in extra extra high heels). 

The more you let him get away with it, the more he starts to win. But if you stomp your heels, you start to slow him down and if you flip your hair, his comments disappear and his mojo drops. You need to keep the air clear of his comments and stomp away your frustration to win!

You can play the game HERE.

Now to be fair, the game was actually pretty hard to play. The heels were ridiculously high—to the point that your thighs were burning by the end. You had to be pretty precise with your stomping to actually get points. The wig was also hot and itchy and, well, it’s harder than it looks to strut down the street and flip your hair all at the same time.

GAMERella produced some really cool-looking games and there was a massive range of ideas. Here are a couple others:

I also have to give props to the CBC for also covering the event in a pretty fair, well-researched way. You could tell they tried hard to give an accurate representation of what was going on and why we were doing this.

Something that really strikes me about the indie scene is how limitless the imagination is. Scarcity of $$ resources sometimes leads to incredibly creative innovations.The video games created at these jams are much more like interactive art with digital components than traditional AAA games. There was something really cathartic about joining a group and contributing ideas, rather than just sitting on the outside trying the capture the feeling of what it might be like on camera. As a visual artist, the more I learn about the communities, programs and resources at my disposal, the more I wish I had discovered this world earlier.