Pseudo Game Jam

A Fake Jam Where You Make Pretend Games

We’re hosting a game jam!

Well, not quite–it’s a pseudo game jam. It’s not located anywhere and you don’t have to program anything. We’re looking for written descriptions of the processes and procedures that make up a game. We call them procedural poems (see the example below). Here’s what you need to know:

The prize (valued at up to $170). It includes:

 Essential Books in Game Studies

    • Persuasive Games by Ian Bogost.
    • Rise of the Videogame Zinesters by Anna Anthropy.
    • First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game.
    • Winner’s choice of one Boss Fight Books.

 An exclusive First Person Scholar t-shirt.
*Additionally, if we receive over 20 eligible submissions the winner will also get a $100 Steam gift card.

The time limit.

The jam is open for one month (July 1st to July 31st).

The theme.

Rethinking Conventions. Some potential interpretations include:

  • Rethinking traditional genres (i.e. platformers, first-person shooters, etc.) in terms of non-violent gameplay.
  • Subverting gender norms in AAA games.
  • Inserting social interactions into a conventionally non-social genre.
  • Reimagining traditionally single-player experiences in terms of co-op.
  • Thinking beyond binaries (good vs evil, hero vs villain, winning vs. losing, etc.) in respect to narrative and gameplay.

For instance, in terms of non-violent gameplay, you could pitch a first-person game where the player’s role is to help rebuild a war-ravaged city between rounds of combat. For turning a single-player experience into co-op, you could rethink the RPG dialogue system as a con-artist simulator, where the objective is for two players to lead an NPC to a desired conclusion through a carefully orchestrated conversation. In any case, the main idea here is to take something familiar and turn it on its head.

We’re hoping to see all sorts of wonderful, creative, and subversive ‘games’ that challenge accepted definitions and practices. Read on for more details, an example procedural poem, and the submit form.

1. What’s the point?

2. What’s the process?

3. Example

4. Submit your ‘game’

5. Questions

1. What’s the Point?

A pseudo game jam allows virtually anyone to easily prototype an idea about a game. This is because the focus has been shifted away from technical constraints onto the expression of an idea or argument through the description of processes.  This kind of thinking is a form of ludo-poiesis—the art of making through gameplay. Ludo is from Latin meaning ‘to play,’ whereas ‘poiesis’ means ‘an act or process of creation’–it’s the root of the modern word ‘poetry.’ Ludo-poiesis, then, is a means of creating or bringing-forth an idea, argument, thought, or feeling through gameplay processes. And this is actually a very useful skill in thinking about complex systems and rule-based scenarios. By having a game jam centered on ludo-poiesis we’re challenge you–our readers–to tap into this skill in order to create a ‘game’ that people can ‘play’ in their minds as they read your procedural poem. Perhaps such ‘games’ will help us think through larger, more systemic problems, or maybe they provide inspiration for a new kind of mechanic. Rest assured, the theme will ask participants to challenge the status quo surrounding contemporary games and we’re excited to see what you can come up with.

2. What’s the Process?

Participants have one month to submit a game written as a procedural poem that addresses the theme. Games (max. 300 words each) consist of an overview of the game, the goal, the setup or starting conditions, and a brief summary of a play-through (see the example below). Once the ‘jam’ concludes (July 31st), submissions will be moderated and then posted online. The top submissions, as selected by the First Person Scholar editorial staff, will be revealed over several weeks, with a prize being awarded to the best overall ‘game.’ Judging criteria include: clarity of the procedural poem, its effectiveness as an argument addressing the theme, and its ingenuity in the use of processes in making that argument.

3. Example (unrelated to the theme)

Frank Lantz: Man’s Lewd Scent*

“And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell” – Gerard Manley Hopkins “God’s Grandeur”

Man’s Lewd Scent is a game for two players. One player plays the Human, the other player plays the World.

Goal: The Human’s goal is to construct the Future so that it matches the Plan. The World has no goal.

Set Up: The World begins with a collection of 12 pieces drawn at random from the box. The Human begins with a Plan card drawn at random from the Plan deck.

Play: Each turn the Human asks the World for a specific piece. The World hands the Human any piece and then draws a new piece at random from the box. The Human places the newly acquired piece in the Future. If there was already a piece in the Future it moves to the Present. If there was already a piece in the Present it is returned the box.

If, at any time, the Human is too old, or too sick, to hold the card and move the pieces, they must teach the game to someone new. The new Human looks at the old Plan, now worn and faded, its corners soft and bent, quietly replaces it in the deck and chooses a new card at random.

The game is unlikely to end.

(* Frank Lantz is not associated with FPS. We just thought his ‘procedural poem’–which first appeared here on Kotaku–was pretty cool and a good source of inspiration. Frank has passed along some of his own sources of inspiration though, including these poems by Vasko Popa and David Kanaga’s Notes on Zimmerman’s Ludic Century,’  which speaks to the theme of this ‘jam’).

4. Submit Your Procedural Poem

We will be accepting submissions until July 31st, 11:59pm EST. Then, throughout the month of August, we will be posting the poems on our site, leading up to the announcement of the winner on August 27th. Posts will include your name, your Twitter handle (optional), and your poem. We will use your email address only for the purposes of contacting you as the winner.

Submissions are now closed.

5. Questions?

Post a comment below and we’ll do our best to get back to you in a timely manner.


    • Just one per person. We’re looking for your very best 🙂

  1. Guys I don’t understand what the whole “procedural poem” thing is about, do you expect us to follow a writing procedure when writing or can we write anything that fits under 300 words ?

    • Apologies for the confusion. The ‘procedural’ part of procedural poem refers to the the fact that you’ll be describing a procedure, not following one.

  2. I mean beyond the rules that appears above, is it possible to write freely or do we have to respect the structure of the example poem

    • You can write freely but you will need to include, in some form, an overview of the game, the goal, the setup or starting conditions, and a brief summary of a play-through.

  3. I was reading over the process and was wondering how we would consider set-up in a video game. Right now I am rather stumped with that so an answer would be appreciated

    • The setup is really just setting the context for the gameplay. For instance, drawing on the examples above, the setup for a non-violent FPS might be: Gameplay occurs between rounds of simulated fighting in a city. The player has five minutes between rounds of combat to rebuild infrastructure, relocate civilians, and reallocate aid, before the next round starts. Or for the co-op dialogue system, the setup might be: the game is comprised of a series of two-player conversations. Each player has his/her own initial dialogue options which branch off in various directions. Players will need to coordinate which options they select throughout the conversation in order to persuade or con the NPC.

  4. Are the topics limited to video games or are non-electronic game formats included?

    • Good question. Non-electronic game formats are definitely welcome here.

  5. Where are the results? Can we look at submissions?

Comments are closed.