The Nordic Game Jam

Last weekend was perhaps one of the best I’ve ever had. Emily, Christopher and I went to the Nordic Game Jam, the world’s biggest jam, and made a game together.

The event was absolutely incredible in terms of scale. There were over 700 people there making a total of 146 teams. Most teams were actually fairly large, the average being 4-5 people, and so our team of 3 felt very small. But of course it didn’t hold us back!

The theme of the jam was literally “not there”. With such a vague theme thinking of ideas was quite unsettling at first, but we managed by just discussing what the theme reminded us of. Our initial ideas felt pretty standard - perhaps a game about a child whose parents were never there for him? What about a game where the main character is invisible? But when we changed our interpretation of it to “don’t go there” instead of “not there”, things got more interesting.

We decided to make a game about a boy who wants to go to an alternate dimension called the “Dark Realm”, where ghosts and other being reside. He knows he’s not really supposed to, and he knows it might be dangerous, but he’s so curious and fascinated by magic and ghosts he can’t help himself. Finally he obtains the power to switch to the dark realm dimension! But he cannot stay there for long, as the dark realm slowly sucks one’s life away if you allow it.
Credit to Christopher for the amazing artwork!

However, he made a terrible mistake. On entering the dark realm for the first time he triggered an opening to it in his house which all his family ended falling into. The player must now go to every room in his house and defeat all the ghosts in order to bring his family back. As the ghosts are other worldly creatures, the player cannot touch them in the dark world, and so the only way to defeat ghosts is by having them possess a real world object and destroying that. But although he is able to see the ghosts when in the dark realm, he is unable to interact with objects in the real world. And so the core game mechanic revolves around the player searching for the ghosts in the dark realm and actually defeating them in the real world by throwing objects at them and forcing them to possess something.
The dark realm. The player must defeat the ghost to save his brother! The player can lift objects in the real world. A possessed object which the player can finally defeat.

The initial idea was based on the game mechanic of having an alternate dimension the player can enter by pressing a button. We wanted to make it so that the player had to switch frequently between the dimensions, so we knew both the dark realm and the real world needed to be useful to the player in some way. As the dark realm is meant to be a horrific place you’re not meant to go to, we thought it would be appropriate if you could only see your enemies there and not in the real world. However, as the dark realm is an alternate reality, you can’t interact with anything in the real world when you’re in it, nor can you attack things like you normally can. This makes for a fun mechanic because you require both dimensions to achieve your objectives.

We would love to continue working on this game as it has so much potential. The game currently has only two different types of ghosts, and there could be so much more. We really want to flesh out the possession mechanic by adding in different kinds of objects the ghosts can be possessed by to create different enemies. We want to add more creative ways of making the ghosts possess objects, like adding several stages to the possession process or allowing the player to roll an object instead of throwing it. The dark realm could also be made more interesting by giving the player more than just the ghost locations, perhaps it could also give them hints about how to possess the ghost or what a possessed object’s weak point is.

There is a lot to do for it and we’re really excited! Hoping to post more about its development as we continue to work on it!