A game jam is when a group of people work on games around a particular theme or idea for a concentrated time period. The games produced are usually prototypes—which means a rough draft of a workin game—which can be refined further afterward. The idea is to get your hands dirty and learn by doing!
The goal of the Hidden Heroes Jam is to encourage intergenerational collaboration by having younger creators help translate the stories, experience and wisdom of older adults into games! In the process, we want to empower older adults to become game creators, and to expand their representation in games.
No prior experience is necessary! Hidden Heroes is designed to encourage intergenerational collaboration. If you have a younger relative or friend who’s into games, ask them to join your team! There are plenty of easy-to-use game-creation tools to choose from. You could even make a game with Minecraft!
You can create any type of game you like, digital or otherwise—a board game, a card game, even a tabletop roleplaying game.
You can collaborate with a team that includes a programmer, and even if there are no programmers on your team, there are lots of different easy-to-use tools that you can use. Examples include Minecraft, Roblox, RPG-Maker, and Gamemaker.
A handful of game developers have created games based on the stories and lives of older family members. The model for Hidden Heroes is Brukel, created by jam co-organizer Bob De Schutter with his grandmother about her experiences in Belgium under German occupation during WWII. Similar and related games include BORDERS, by Macua, based on the designer’s parents’ stories of crossing the border from Mexico to the United States; and Spectre, by USC’s Vaguely Spectacular Team, explores the memory of a 73 year old man. Other games with related themes include Old Man’s Journey,
That’s why they’re hidden! It might take a little detective work to find the right person. Look at the game jam as an opportunity to get to know someone you admire better. It might be a parent, an aunt, or a grandparent. Perhaps you have family members you don’t get to see very much, either across your own country or overseas. It could also be your favorite teacher, a mentor, even a boss who had a big influence on you, perhaps a neighbor or family friend you’ve always looked up to. Use the Hidden Heroes Game Jam as an opportunity to reach out and connect with an older adult in your life.
A good place to start is your own family. Maybe you play games with your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews (both adults and children!). Imagine how cool it would be to ask them to make a game with you! Do you have younger family members or friends you don’t get to see very often? Reach out and use this as an excuse to connect!
A couple of reasons. The larger entertainment industry—film, TV even popular music—have caught up with the idea that stories for and about older adults are cool, and older adults who are in their prime are making groundbreaking and award-winning work in all these media. The game industry has still not hurdled the ageism barrier, despite the fact that adults over 50 are the largest growing market for its products. The goal of Hidden Heroes is threefold: 1) To empower older adults to tell their stories through games; 2) To encourage people to engage with games across generations; 3) To expand representation of older adults in games, both as subjects and creators.
The Hidden Heroes Game Jam is a collaboration between IndieCade, the International Festival of Independent Games, and Northeastern University’s “Games for Life” initiative, and AARP Games. The goal of this wider initiative is to study and create games for the over fifty gamer, including expanding our knowledge of the benefits of games, understanding play preferences, and advocating for greater accessibility and inclusiveness in the mainstream industry.