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GGJ Archives 2009-2012

Group Forming

Group Forming processes - Capitalist & Socialist

The participants at the gamejam most likely don't know each other, haven't gotten any ideas to work on and nobody to do it with. To adress these issues, you can initially do 2 types of exercises with them: socializing exercises & groupforming exercises.

If your gamejam is small (less then 30 participants), you might not have to do these exercises; normal social mingling and talk can take care of it. Just be sure to that all ends up in a group (unless they want to work on their own, - lone wolfs are acccepted).

If your gamejam is big (100+ participants), we (the NGJ-organizers) have developed a speeddating- method for doing this for NGJ'10. It is describes under "Socialist Group Forming".

First we recommend that you do a set of social exercises to loosen people up and get to know each other.

Social Exercices

The social exercise is purely to get everyone talking to each other. We've done this exercise the last for years at NGJ and it works fine.

Get everybody out on the floor of a big room.

Tell people to separate into groups based on (in turn) the following criteria:
Field of expertise - gamedesigner, programmer, graphics artist, audio designer, other
Profession - student, hobby gamedeveloper, industry gamedeveloper, indie developer, other
Favorite game - platformer, shooter, roleplaying, strategy, other

Now tell all the groups to discuss what they think the other groups think about their group. Give them 2 minutes to talk among themselves and then ask a representative for each group to tell what they came up with.

Examples:

  • Ask the gamedesign group what they thing the programmers think about them
  • Ask the student group what they think the indie developers think about them
  • Ask the shooter-players what they think the strategy players think about
  • and so on...

    This will bring out some interesting prejudices about people's perception of others people's perception on them (phew!) and should get communication going between people. Remember to moderate it so the atmosphere doesn't get hostile. It will also help create a community-feeling in the groups ("US programmers")and give everybody an overview of the skills & experience of the participants.

    The Capitalist Group Forming process

    This is the process that we used the first 4 years at NGJ. The process is fun and effective, but can't handle more then 100-150 participants. If you are more then this, we suggest that you either use the Socialist Group Forming method instead or do both. Participants will then have to choose which they prefer.

    The Capitalist Group Forming process focuses on the idea/project and the teams are generated around the idea. The Socialist Group Forming process focuses on creating a team and then the team comes up with an idea. Capitalist is "idea first", Socialist is "people first", - hence the titles. Feel free to call them something else if the titles make you uncomfortable; they're just for fun.

    Pitching

    The purpose of the pitching process is to form groups around gameconcepts that they want to work on. You need a room with wallspace, paper, pens & tape to hang the paper up with.

    Ask people to come up with gameconcepts that they want to make. They can either do this in groups or individually. If you have a lot of participants (100+), have people do this in groups of 2-4 people, - this gives fewer concepts at the pitching afterwards.

    People take turns to present their gameconcept to all of the participants. They need to specify the following on the paper/in their presentation:

  • Concept/Game Idea (including (tentative) title)
  • Platform - what platform do they want to do it for? and with what editor?
  • Skills in groups - gamedesigner, programmer, graphics artist, audio designer, other
  • Skills missing from group - gamedesigner, programmer, graphics artist, audio designer, other
  • After they've presented the game, they hang the papir on the wall. It's a good idea to timebox the presentations, so it goes faster; - give them exactly 30 seconds to do it.

    Here is a photo of what this might look like from NGJ 06: http://www.nordicgamejam.org/06/report01.html

    Groupforming (first round)

    After all ideas are pitched, the “owner” of each idea takes the paper with their idea and tapes it to the front of his clothes. At this point, idea owners are trying to sell their ideas while other participants are shopping around for an idea they’d like to attach themselves to. Idea owners who are unable to sell their ideas will have to give up on their idea and join someone else’s group. This continues until everyone has a group – no one may start until everyone is part of a group (barring Lone Wolfs who insist on working on their own).

    Incidentally, this tactic of keeping everyone “locked in a room” works well for getting people organized, so you don’t usually have to worry about people not finding a group.

    Also, groups should pay attention to skill sets, to make sure that they have all the skills they need (generally at least one person with programming skills, one with art skills, one with game design skills, and preferably someone among them who knows how to do audio).

    The pitching process can be quite frenzied and feel like a wall street trading floor, - another motivation for "Capitalist" monicker.

    Groupforming (round two)

    The purpose of the second round is to get everyone into groups. You need to match groupless participants with missing skills in the groups.

    While the participants are gathered, ask the crowd if anyone needs a group and what their skills are. Ask the groups what skills they need. Assign the groupless participants to a group.

    Remember: even if a person doesn't initially seem to have the skills for a group, something will most likely pop up that the person can do - QA, groupregistration at the GGJ-site, maintain a design documents, fetching coffee, being project manager etc.

    ...and now you just send people off their rooms to start developing. Happy trails!

    The Socialist Group Forming process

    The Socialist Method was developed by Dave Mariner and Jesper Taxbøl to alliviate the problems that appeared with the original method when we hit more then 100 participants.

    The Socialist Method

    This socialist method focuses on the people involved instead of the idea. It aims to establish functioning groups before real work begins. The method is based on a one-way circular walking path that visits all work areas, and is connected to the big room, where the keynote is held.

    We use paper arrows on the walls to indicate the path, and we gave each area a distinct name. The number of work areas was adjusted so there would be 6 participants per work area.

    This path is maintained & used throughout the jam.

    The group forming process

    After the keynote all participants are given an brief introduction to the Capitalist method and the Socialist method. Preferably by different people representing the different paths.

    The Capitalist introduction descibes the "pitching method" above.

    The Socialist introduction is given, with a brief outline of its qualities and end with a outline of the rules which are.

    1.You must follow the path in the direction of the arrows.
    2.Walk the path until you find a work area with less than three, to you, unknown participants.
    3.Wait for further instructions.

    Walk the path I

    Then people are instructed to walk the path.

    When participants are settled, instructions are placed at the work areas:

    Take turns answering the following three questions.
    1.Who are you and what do you contribute to the jam?
    2.What are your expectations of the jam, and what is your commitment to the jam?
    3.How do you see yourself fit into this group in relation to the answers to the previous questions?

    Walk the path again II

    When you hear a short audio signal (we use a bullhorn) find a new table following the same rules as before.

    When all participants have found a table, we sound the bullhorn again with a a long audio signal, to signal that the teams should open the envelope at the work area.

    Walk the path III

    After 15 minutes a short signal is given to trigger participants to leave their work area and find a new table. We continue this process 3-4 times so all participants have been introduced to at least nine, for them, unknown participants.

    After that the long signal is sounded and participants open the work area envelope. It contains instructions and 3 randomized themes chosen by the organizers.

    "Start brainstorming on one of the following three themes:
    Betrayal
    Airplanes
    Empathy".

    Any participant can leave their group and follow the path to join the next group unconditionally.

    There is no limits to group size and at this point no one can be rejected.

    Participants are encouraged to try at least three groups before they settle into one.

    Groups are formed

    After 30 minutes the groups should be settled and the organizers take a round getting a feel of how the groups are settled and possibly give advice to individuals. When the organizers have visited all groups and they are settled the real theme is distributed in an envelope and real work can begin.

    The path is kept functioning the Jam
    The trick here is that the path is kept functioning throughout the jam. This means that anyone can leave a group at anytime throughout the jam and join a new group. Only criteria is after work has started, participants must be accept by the group to join it. If a participant is rejected by all groups, organizers will find them a group and force them to accept (This last resort have never been necessary at the NGJ).

    It is encouraged to expand the path on day two so Capitalists Group can work in work areas along the path. This helps the mingling process between Capitalist & Socialist groups.

    The path is also used to distribute late arrivals and volunteers that are not in for the full jam.

    This is usually industry professionals lent out by companies or just people that want to contribute without having to put in 48 hours of work. Some of the organizers also do this to help out and get a feel of the jam.

    The info desk

    Alongside the path we also establish an info desk in a central area. The nfo desk offers coffee, soft drinks (and beer) and candy as a an on-site service. This also motivates people to return to it at regular intervals.

    The info desk serves many purposes:
    1. It is the organizers headquarter and it is staffed at all times.
    2. People sign in to the jam there
    3. People can borrow equipment; powercables, LAN-cables, powersupply, cellphone-chargers etc.
    4. We put flipover billboards with messages for people here.
    5. The menu is posted here
    6. Lost and found service
    7. General advice
    8. Socializing (we make a Lounge-like area in front of the Infodesk)
    9. Shop for candy, chips, sodas, beers, coffee and tea (for free).
    10. Any other questions or issues can be solved here

    Conclusion

    The first year we tried the Socialist Method was in 2010, where the NGJ had 297 paying participants. We split the participants up in two groups and had both the Capitalist and Socialist method.

    We think that the Socialist method has some vast advantages over the old Capitalist method:

    It is less stressful for the participants.
    It gives a safety net so no one is left out. Even dropouts from the Capitalist track.
    We have a mechanism to send out helpers.
    We feel that people get more networking out of the Jam

    We have had some criticism as well:

    Capitalists get the theme earlier and get to start working around 2 hours earlier.
    Some people like the rush of the Capitalism method
    A lot of ideas are generated using the Capitalist method and the Socialists will not get this inspiration.
    Some people is more interested in working on an interesting project then to work with the right people.

    In the light of our experiences from 2010 we plan to offer both again in 2011, as we aim at 300 participants. We think that offering the two methods actually adds a level of good spirited competition to the jam. So offer both methods if your site has more than 100 participants.

    Anders Højsted, Jesper Taxbøl, David Mariner, Nevin Eronde

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