A “game jam” is where a bunch of developers get together and bash out a game or proof of concept over a couple of days, maybe a week or two. It’s usually a private thing, though some have been recorded for the purposes of promotion and charity with a good bit of success. This is where two of the biggest names in video game video content, Polaris and Maker, decided to do their own and professionally record one of these game jam sessions and in the process they created a monster.
Few of the participants can fully disclose the events that transpired, but all who have seem to tell the same tale. This was an idea that grew too far, too fast, and got far and away from anything the intended audience would want to see. What started as a more professionally shot and edited together jam demonstrating the hard work that goes into development, highlighting this with some of the brightest indie talent around and using some of the hottest YouTube personalities like Angry Joe and JohnTron, crashed and burned when it became something completely the opposite of what it intended to be.
Somewhere along the way of getting this talent together and getting people on set and filming sponsorship got involved, namely Pepsi with their Mountain Dew brand. Mountain Dew already has a tenuous relationship with gamers, as they’ve tried hard to attach themselves to the gamer image and in the process have alienated a great many who consider themselves gamers in the first place. The worst example of this was the “Mountain Dew and Doritos” incident where Geoff Keighley did interviews seated looking annoyed between Halo themed Mountain Dew and Doritos. Gamers used this image to galvanize their complaints that they no longer trusted mainstream industry press, claiming that it completely sold out and the opinions espoused by critics couldn’t be trusted.
So here Pepsi managed to plaster the Mountain Dew logo, with all of this baggage intact around a bunch of developers attempting to simply work and show people what they do and what they love. It immediately cheapened the mood by all accounts. Jared Rosen posted on Indie Stalk compared to to a “sick surrealist painting.” He personally witnessed the events that unfolded but wasn’t held back by contractual conditions like most of the participants. He went on describe a scenario that had been morphed by the input of these sponsors into a reality show kind of event with teams and tasks.
This is where the monster bore its ugly head. A consultant named Matti who was hired by Pepsi apparently took charge of the situation and began to direct this macabre display, attempting to coax these personalities and developers to fake smile while drinking Mountain Dew and confirm their looks to better fit the marketing checklists. It didn’t go over well, but what really hit a nerve was when Matti and his camera crew began to probe for drama. In particular he attempted to use perceived sexism as a vector to create such drama, insinuating that the esteemed female developers were somehow unable to perform under duress, or would perhaps bias the judges because they were women. He was goading to attempt to exploit the stereotype that gamers were sexist, Mountain Dew drinking anti-social nerds. The whole thing was antithetical to who they were.
And they would have none of it.
The development team walked, talent included. Matti bellowed as soon as he failed to get a rise out of any of the cast that there was “no story here”, as if the only story worth telling was that of a contrived and forced reality show, missing the point entirely. Everyone who wanted to see this thing happened could care less about Mountain Dew or interpersonal drama, they wanted to see how these brilliant people made video games and they ruined the entire thing. This is exactly why this trite crap isn’t earning new viewers on TV and everyone is running away from cable, and here it was shoved unto a group of friends and comrades who said enough was enough. The project cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce, and like that it was all gone.
And good riddance, because those people and the viewer’s deserve much better.