A Maze Train Jam
The A Maze Train Jam is an annual event, where gamers, coders and programmers from around the world come together in Johannesburg, South Africa and are marathon programming on their train ride to Cape Town and the Playtopia Indie Gaming Festival where their results are presented.
A Maze Train Jam 2020 - Cape Jozi
When the whole world shuts down and you can't go anywhere.When your mobile game jam is halted, because the train you wanted to have it on won't leave the station.
What does a person do? Most of us just stayed in lockdown. But what do programmers do?
Why, they just build their own world with its own train station, where trains can go literally any place, real or fictional. Welcome to Cape Jozi!
Over the course of the year 2020 it became increasingly clear that the annual A Maze Train Jam could under no circumstances be held in the way we had initially planned the project. Our international guests would most likely be unable to travel to South Africa. There probably wouldn't be a train running to Cape Town. With the narrow space of a train compartment social distancing would be impossible. And last, but not least, Playtopia was cancelled for that year.
Always keeping a watchful eye on the developing global situation in the months before, we had put our heads together, whispered and conspired and when it was clear that the Train Jam could not happen in the way we were used to, Plan B was already in the works!
With the support of EDEN, MCSA and the partner festival Playtopia we were able to create a wholly new world in VR Chat. The final result was a floating Virtual Reality train station above the landscape of Cape Jozi, a visual mesh between the stunning view of Table Mountain and the bustling Johannesburg skyline.
Between 8 - 13 December 2020 creatives from over 13 countries like South Africa, Senegal, Rwanda, Kenya and Cameroon and many more gathered here to leave their own stylish mark on this immaterial place. They gathered, workshopped, drew, designed, performed, programmed and downright fabricated not only the train station itself, but also connected worlds, which can be visited via the trains leaving the station.
If you still struggle to imagine what any of this would look like, take a look the video below by Joe Hunting aka Little Poe, who shot a small documentary abput Cape Jozi and the connected worlds in VR:
You want to know what the Train Jam is usually like? Read on below for an article about the 2019 Train Jam.
aMaze Train Jam 2019 - A playful train ride through South Africa
A flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town takes a good two hours. A train ride? At least 27 hours, without air conditioning. Why would anyone want to do that, especially in South African summer?
© Hankyeol Lee
“Trains force your brain to slow down. With no internet access and the knowledge you’ll be on a train for an entire day, you have to mine your creative resources.” What Lucas Peterson wrote for the New York Times can be seen as inspiring the invention of the Train Jam: game developers use the creative atmosphere of a train ride to conceptualize and implement games. What normally takes months happens in hours.
Following an idea from the USA, the Goethe-Institut South Africa and the A Maze Festival from Berlin have launched the South African Train Jam. The special thing about this Train Jam: the Goethe-Institut covers the entire costs of 20 young game design students, while the A Maze Festival with its contacts around the world ensures that international, professional game designers are on board. This creates a unique opportunity for everyone involved to network while traveling and making games. That same week, the results will be presented at the Playtopia Indie Games & Immersive Arts Festival in Cape Town.
Thorsten Wiedemann, the founder and creative director of A Maze, emphasizes the beginner-friendliness of the project: "We want to appeal especially to newcomers who study game design. Thanks to the 20 sponsored places of the Goethe-Institut, we can implement that, although we had a hard time picking the right ones from all the applications - we would of course like to take everyone with us!"
Photo: © Goethe-Institut One of the participants who was able to get a ticket is Sherilynne Herb, a game design student from Wits University in Johannesburg. She's in her first semester and was particularly excited about how much she could learn: "I met a lot of really interesting, great people. Everyone brings something different with us, we were a bunch of different personalities and yet we got along pretty well. I learned a lot about the industry and how it works. It was a great experience!"
While the timetable actually envisages 27 hours for the route, it ended up being 36 hours, as unscheduled stops in the desert landscape of the South African interior are not uncommon on this route. The heatwave which had kept the country under control and caused the temperatures in some places to rise to over 50 °C, made the task even more difficult. Nonetheless, the brave game designers worked to the last moment, conceptualizing and designing a total of eleven games that will be available in future under the following link: https://itch.io/c/669992/a-maze-train-jam-2019
Stefanie Kastner, Regional Director Information for Sub-Saharan Africa, finally emphasized the special power of intercultural cooperation: "As the Goethe-Institut, we work to connect cultures and create dialogue. Here at the Train Jam we see again how Connecting and creating together is the answer to so many conflicts in our world ".
You want some more A Maze Train Jam? We got you covered! Check out the video of last year's installment below.
Games from the Amaze Train Jam 2019 Now online!
The Train Jam crew worked throughout their drive to complete their games and we now have the results online! Check the following link to check out the free games: