An Analogue Game Jam
May 19 & 25, 2023
Organizing the jam
In May 2023, the Disinformation and Games Research Project hosted an analog game jam in collaboration with Ageing + Communication + Technologies (ACT). When planning the event, our goals were two-fold. As part of our project’s outreach axis, the game jam was an opportunity to share our early findings on how disinformation manifests in videogame mods, mini-games and memes. The game jam was also a chance to generate process-based thinking and discussion about how people perceive disinformation in their own lives. Through making, playing, and conversation we could ask: How would game jam participants relate to our research and political disinformation more broadly? How would we use games as tools to understand the functioning of disinformation?
As such, we prepared for an all-levels, intergenerational, and beginner-friendly game jam. Alongside ACT, who graciously granted us a space in which to host the jam and assisted us with participant outreach, we also worked closely with members of RECAA (Respecting Elders Communities against Abuse). RECAA is an organization of elders from Montreal’s cultural communities who work across age, gender, and ethnic lines to promote a culture of respect for elders from all our communities.
On May 19th and 26th, participants were invited to the ACT offices in downtown Montreal in order create analog games (ie. board games, card games, paper prototypes, etc.) reflecting on media disinformation. Organized across two days, the jam had two distinct phases: brainstorming and game-making. Participants could work either independently or in groups, and as organizers we provided food, design support, and supplies. Here's a recap of what happened and what was designed in that time!!
On May 19th, we welcomed our group of participants–a mix of game-designers with previous experience and game-making amateurs, such as our friends from RECAA. Scott DeJong, researcher on the Disinformation and Games Project and creator of Lizards & Lies (a board game about how conspiracy theory moves across social mediaonline) facilitated the workshop. As we kicked off the jam, Scott introduced our project’s key aspects– the what, hows, and whys of disinformation and how games are functioning in this space (as media literacy tools, or to help build communities for false ideas to flourish). This was followed by a hands-on workshop about how to make analog games, which transitioned into a brainstorming and making for each of the participants game jam ideas.
By the afternoon, the room was buzzing as participants narrowed down on their ideas. Some worked in groups, others preferred to work autonomously, yet throughout the jam there was lots of exchange, feedback, and communication. When we capped off the day, we had reached a point where most of the groups had done basic scaffolding in terms of their game concepts. Perhaps they had even figured out the central play mechanics and had an idea for the aesthetic direction they wanted to pursue next week. It definitely felt like a good point at which to break – everyone had worked hard!
Before we knew it, a week had passed and it was the 26th, which meant it was time to reconvene for the second and final portion of the game jam. We moved forward with the hands-on portion of our game-making, pulling out swaths of cardstock, paper, pens and pencils. Scott brought along a copy of the table top role playing game A Quiet Year, which was played with one of the groups who were aspiring to create a similar mechanics system. Everyone worked in steady concentration, progressing at their own pace. Our seven-hour day eclipsed quickly–full of paper, chatting, problem-solving.
At the end of the jam, we had two playable game prototypes about disinformation:
Fact Check by Allyson Gray
A cooperative card game where each player holds information about one type of media but is clueless about others. Players must collaborate to construct messages and signal which news sources are trustworthy! Allyson’s game had some wacky headlines that were just believable enough to make you wonder what might actually be true and what might be fiction. Their use of letter tiles reflected challenges in communication pathways as players worked together for the truth. Find Fact Check card samples as well as Allyson’s previous games on itch.io.
What Was She Wearing? by Hanine El Mir
What Was She Wearing is a mix-and-match dress-up card game based on victim blaming in media narratives. Hanine’s game pushed against the narrative of how outfits impact sexual assault. A serious game, it offered a lens on how visual arguments can mislead the public about the actual issues at hand. The game was simple, playable quickly, but definitely left you thinking. You can find Hanine’s games on their itch.io and X.
Working Title: What Lies in Care Homes. By RECAA
The members of RECAA were our most inexperienced game designers but were deeply excited to make something. Inspired by the Quiet Year and their impassioned work on raising awareness about Older Adult Mistreatment, they created a game where players learned about the issues of care homes from a lens on how the media and public report on them. Their game was still being developed but they hope to show it off at our public event in the fall.
Overall, we were delighted with the results of the game jam. Our group of participants were animated and very enthusiastic in learning about and making games, whether or not they had previous experience in doing so. It was interesting also to see which aspects of media disinformation resonated most strongly with each of the groups and individual creators. It was clear in the development of the games that the participants put a lot of thought into the ways that disinformation connected with issues that were close to heart–rape culture, ageism, fake news, and so forth. Through these games, we departed from a broader, impersonal definition of disinformation and explored multi-faceted and personal issues that related directly to our quotidians. Both Hanine and Allyson’s games will be available on-site and playable at our research presentation panel this fall–stay tuned for more details.