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[this article is cross-posted from the Untold Entertainment blog, which is awesome]
As planned, i took my five-year-old daughter Cassie to TOJam, the three-day Toronto independent game jam, to make a game with me. And here it is:
Cassie drew all the pictures, wrote all the titles, and recorded the voice of the main character. She also came up with the NPCs (including Mr. Turtle, the Mean Tiger, and the villainous Lemon), and designed some of the puzzles (including the one where you [SPOILER ALERT] have to read a sign to justify your need for a coconut to throw at the Lemon).
Send Cassie to College?
i used Mochimedia's ad service to inject ads into the game, which is fitting, because Mochi was a TOJam sponsor this year. i threw ads in there with the hope that the game might drum up a little bit of cash, which i will put toward the education fund that Cassie's grandma started for her. Wouldn't it be cool if Cassie's game paid for college? (Sadly, it won't happen. See the Pimp My Game series for more reasons why.) For kicks, i added a PayPal Donate button beneath the game.
With your help, maybe we can send her to get some etiquette training? [Photo by Paul Hillier]
Alert Child Services
Dragging your kid to a weekend-long game jam, eh? Before you call Children's Aid on me, please understand that i didn't actually keep Cassie captive at TOJam all weekend long. She came in with me at 9:30 Saturday morning, and was the most excited i've ever seen her. We'd been preparing her for MONTHS so that she'd be emotionally ready for TOJam. After the organizers expressed concern that my rotten kid would be running around the place pestering people and making noise (an entirely likely scenario, if you're familiar with my insane children and my lousy parenting style), i spent every evening coaching Cassie.
Me: Remember, you're the first little girl who's ever made a game at TOJam. And everyone's worried you're going to run around screaming and making noise and wrecking things.
Cassie: (shocked face) No i won't!
Me: *i* know you won't. (totally lying here - i was as nervous about it as anyone) But you have to prove to everyone that little girls can make video games too. If you're very well behaved, then next year if another little girl wants to come and make a game, the TOJam people will say "the little girl who made a game last year was SO wonderful, we'd LOVE to see more little girls making games."
Cassie: i'll be have. i will!
Yes, Cassandra, There Is a Game Jam
The morning of TOJam was like Christmas for her. i'm not kidding. In the days leading up to the event, she told everyone she knew that she was going to TOJam. Naturally, they had no idea what she was talking about, but the strangers in the elevator and in the grocery store smiled and nodded politely all the same. By the end of the day on Saturday, Cassie had spent 10 hours at TOJam, and was begging me to let her stay overnight. She had put in about 6 hours of actual colouring work, and sunk at least another hour into voice acting later that evening at home, where it was quieter. i tucked her into bed and returned to TOJam late Saturday evening, and then pulled an all-nighter scanning her crayon drawings and integrating them with the game logic using UGAGS (the Untold Graphic Adventure Game System).
Sunday morning after church, the whole family joined me at TOJam with a bunch of instruments in tow. My wife Cheryl and the two little girls sat together on the carpet down a quiet hallway. Cassie grabbed the harmonica, i took the drum, Cheryl took the ukulele, and little Isabel used the thumb harp and the Happy Apple. We recorded some music tracks together. The one that made it into the game intro is just Cassie and Izzy playing together. It was really nice to have everyone involved like that. Here's the family track that didn't quite make the cut:
[VISIT THE UNTOLD ENTERTAINMENT BLOG TO EXPERIENCE THE CACOPHONY (because i don't know how to embed it on Gamaustra)]
Sunday evening, the family regrouped at TOJam. The game, while still unfinished, was set up in a hallway where Cassie excitedly ran up to any interested passers-by, snatched the mouse out of their hands, and said "I MADE THIS! LEMMIE SHOW YOU HOW TO PLAY!"
i think it was a really valuable life lesson for Cassie to see that all her hard work and effort went into making a product that brought smiles to the faces of her players. The next step is to brave the hairy Playbook process to get it on the device so that Cassie can bring it to school for Show & Tell.
i really hope you enjoy Sissy's Magical Ponycorn Adventure. In all of this, our goal as parents is to give our kids the kind of childhood we would KILL to have had. i can't imagine how different my life would have been if i had made a real working video game with my father at age 5. In fact, i can't imagine how different my life would have been if he hadn't left when i was eight months old.
But no matter. Some day, the ponycorns will get him.