Ottawa Game Jam opportunity to attract talent, says organizer

The video game industry may not be as developed in Ottawa as it is in larger markets like Toronto and Montreal, but last year’s introduction of a local game jam may have been the kickstart the community needed.

by Marc Shaw

Now in its sophomore year, the Ottawa Game Jam (OJAM) will provide a space for professionals to rub shoulders with industry hopefuls this Friday to Sunday at Microsoft’s office on Queen Street.

A game jam is an event where a group of people, separated into teams, develop a game based on a particular theme within a set time limit. Games created at the Ottawa Game Jam will be hosted on OJAM’s website as part of its arcade to engage the public.

“Game jams are a fun environment where teams get together to create something they want. Many people coming work in studios making games and are choosing to spend their weekend making more games,” OJAM co-founder Jillian Mood said in an interview with OBJ.

As one of the event’s sponsors, Microsoft offered the space for the weekend. Local studios bitHeads, Hot Glue Games, Fuel Industries and Karman Interactive will have representatives participating in the jam and giving guidance. Out-of-town companies such as Ludia and Ubisoft are also expected to be represented.

According to Ms. Mood, the event will benefit studios in search of talent, and talent in search of information for how to break into the industry.

“I used to be an HR director at a studio here in Ottawa, and when I was looking for people to recruit, it was never based on a resume coming into my inbox. I would always look for the people that were at events, game jams or making games on the side,” she said.

Mayor Jim Watson, who has been showing support for the city's growing video game industry, is also expected to attend, schedule permitting. Mr. Watson has attended various video game events such as last year’s Canadian Video Game awards in Toronto and is hoping to shine that spotlight on Ottawa when the awards come to the city for the first time as part of Ottawa’s 2017 celebrations.

With the OJAM fostering unity among local developers and high-profile events looming on the horizon, the Ottawa game industry looks poised to jump from the shadows of its larger neighbours.

“They picked here over Toronto and over Montreal. They’re going to Montreal in 2018, but, for their first time leaving Toronto, they’re coming to Ottawa.” said Ms. Mood, adding there will be a weeklong celebration of gaming leading up to the 2017 awards ceremony.

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