The last Friday of every quarter is a special day at ZeptoLab. Everyone puts aside their current tasks, cancels all meetings and… no, they don’t go home, but instead gather in teams to make the most ambitious and crazy ideas come true. We call it Creative Jam Day.
The idea behind it is to give every employee, no matter their position, a chance to create something amazing or useful. It might be a game prototype or a tool that will make life in the office even better or more fun (like the dashboard that shows user reviews of our games in real time).
The first Creative Jam was held in 2012. The event itself proved to be very popular with the ZeptoTeam, so we decided to make it a regular happening. The term “Creative Jam Day” is not just an exaggeration — each team is actually given just one day to realize their vision. It may not seem like a lot, but some of the prototypes developed on that day are actually so complex that they could even pass for an indie game if we published them on Google Play.
Of course, Creative Jam Day has a rather practical goal, too, besides purely inspiring creativity. It also allows ZeptoLab to explore new genres and gain experience with new technology that may come in handy later in our actual projects. Moreover, it’s a great way to “mix up” the development teams a little bit and find a combination that may work even better.
The first Creative Jam Days didn’t have any themes and everyone was just experimenting on whatever they wanted to. However, we realized later that coming up with an abstract theme for gaming projects made during the Jam is much more productive. It not only gives those teams who don’t have a clear concept yet a good idea about where to start from, but also allows us to create prototypes of the games we may actually want to develop further, as, thanks to the theme, they may already have a right idea/concept behind them. Some of the examples of the themes we’ve used include “chain reaction” and “the show.”
As you can see, the themes we choose are rather abstract (we don’t want to shackle creativity, after all) and can apply both to gameplay and to the setting or plot of the prototype. Of course, if a team already has a clear concept of what they want to create and it doesn’t quite fit into the theme of the particular Jam, they can still go ahead and realize their vision without any penalties when it’s time to sum up the results.
On the next working day, the whole office gathers in the meeting room to present projects and choose the best of them. This process often becomes a show of its own, with employees playing multiplayer prototypes together, giving funny speeches and joking. Then everyone gives their vote for the best projects (games and tools have separate polls). The project with the most votes wins, and the winning team gets fame, respect, and a valuable prize.
Here are some examples of prototypes that have been developed during our Creative Jam Days.
An interactive novel in the noir genre with the distinctive dark look and dramatic music. Relies on quick time events to develop its plot.
Theatre of Absinth
A synchronous multiplayer game with a rather bizarre setting of a theater, only all actors are drunk and looking for a fight. Players controls the character by directly moving his fists.
An experimental VR project where you spin pedals on an exercise bike while enjoying a beautiful scenery in an Oculus Rift headset.
Hope you enjoyed the article! We’d love to hear your opinion regarding the Creative Jam Day practice. Have you ever had something like that in your company? What do you do to inspire creativity among members of your team?
We may present more Creative Jam Day concepts in the future, so stay tuned!
Co-author: Sergei Maslennikov - Senior Game Designer at ZeptoLab