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Creating a talent pool
by: May 10, 2010 Print

To the non-gamer, the Toronto Game Jam may seem like just a bunch of game enthusiasts gathered together in one place. But the event, now in its fifth year and continuing to expand and evolve, brings together not just programmers and designers, but also writers, artists and sound gurus, spanning a wide spectrum of creative entertainment-minded folk.

For those who've never worked on a game, but possess the skill sets applicable to overall game creation, TOJam reps a real talent pool that would be worth a closer look from prospective employers. More than 180 people, including comedy writers, students and professional developers, convened at George Brown College in late April for three consecutive days of game building, based on a theme selected by the organizers. (This year's was "missing.") While most of the participants were from the Greater Toronto Area, the event attracted people from as far away as Montreal and San Francisco looking to get in on the action.

The idea for the TOJam was born through social events in the tight-knit indie Toronto gaming community, when Jim and Emilie McGinley and fellow co-organizer Rob Segal discovered that many developers would discuss game concepts they wanted to pursue, but never made it past the idea stage.

"They just needed to stop talking and start doing," emphasizes Emilie McGinley.

The organizers also arrange to have specialized "floaters" to help out with certain aspects of production. So if a team needs to achieve the desired sound for its game, it will have an assigned music floater to help make that happen.

The focus is not competition; as McGinley notes there are already enough of those in the industry. TOJam's main goal is to have small, short games completed in the allotted 72 hours, and there's a real emphasis on the collaborative aspect of the environment.

"Bouncing ideas off others helps to foster more creativity and, overall, helps all the participants make better games," she adds.

Companies looking to get a taste of local talent may also be interested in swinging by TOJam's arcade, in which the 70 completed games will be showcased on big screens at a public venue in late May. "We give everyone about a month after TOJam to polish up their games and get them ready for a mass audience to play," says McGinley.

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