The Best Way to Break Into Video Games

Geocachers make games at the April 2013 STL Game Jam

Geocachers make games at the April 2013 STL Game Jam

Video games are billion dollar industry. Traditional console games, mobile games, and online games attract millions of players, and more importantly, buyers, and tons of people want to get involved in the industry.

The single best way to get hired to make games is to make games of your own. And an easy way to start making your first game it to go to a game jam.

What’s a game jam?

A game jam is similar to a hackathon, except more specialized — you spend 48 hours making a short, playable game, generally around a central theme. Show up at the jam site on a Friday, divide up into teams, find out the theme, and get started creating your game. On Sunday afternoon or evening, everyone shows off their games to each other.

Why a game jam?

Game jams are a great way to get started creating your own games because there’s hardly any start up costs (jam sponsors provide the tools, as long as you have your own computer), and because you don’t need any experience to get started.

You’ll have access to tons of game developers who have more experience than you, and are happy to share that experience — that’s often why they are at the game jam.

You don’t have to know how to code or draw — you can write dialogue, create music, help with the initial concept, design levels. If you want to learn the programming side, you can use a game-building engine like Unity or GameSalad to help you create your game.

How do I find a game jam?

Many cities have regional game jams a few times a year. A good way to get started is to see if your town or city has a game developer meetup, or a chapter of the International Game Developer Association, and contact them with questions.

Plus, at the end of January every year is the Global Game Jam, the largest game creation event in the world.

At the 2014 Global Game Jam, 23,198 jammers at 488 sites in 72 countries created 4,290 games, surpassing the 2013 record of more than 16,000 jammers at 319 sites in 63 countries creating 3248 games. Jammers often spend the entire weekend at the game site, catching naps and sleep as they can. Food is often provided by sponsors.

The 2015 Global Game Jam will start at 5pm (in your time zone) on January 23rd and go for about 48 hours through January 25, 2015. For more detailed info, check out the Global Gam Jam site.

To break into making video games, make video games

The best part of a game jam isn’t the people you’ll meet or the things you’ll learn or the fun you’ll have. The best part is that when it’s over, you’ll have made a game. A game with your name on it, that you can show to prospective employers — some of whom you’ll have met at the game jam.

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10 Ways to Leverage Customer Case Studies

A customer success story/case study is one of the most powerful ways to showcase the benefits of your product or service to prospective customers. According to a survey of more than 500 B2B technology buyers released in January 2014 by Eccolo Media, 56% of enterprise-level buyers used case studies to evaluate a purchase in the last six months, and 48% of those surveyed ranked case studies as a “very influential” content type in their buying process.

A great customer case study can help your company establish expertise, drive new sales, and showcase new products and services to current or past customers. The content in a single customer case study can be reused again and again in different ways. Here are ten suggestions:


Post a teaser of your latest case study on your company blog, with a link leading back to the entire story. This is a great way to drive traffic to your website. Or if it’s a short case study, post the whole thing as a longform blog post.

Email newsletters

Send out case studies in your email newsletters to reach current customers and prospects

Social media

Use powerful customer quotes as Tweets/status updates, with a link back to the full case study on your website


Include quotes from case studies in new business proposals for similar projects, to showcase your prior successes

Press releases

Use statistics from your case studies to add credibility to your company announcements

Sales and data sheets

Use relevant quotes from your case studies on your sales sheets and product data sheets. Your sales team can use the information in case studies to connect with prospects by telling stories about other satisfied customers

Product/service pages

In addition to having a separate case studies section on your company website, you can also link directly to case studies from the relevant product/service pages


People love listening to stories, so liven up your presentations with real-world examples of happy customers from your case studies

Brochures and booklets

Include quotes and statistics from customer case studies in your company brochures, or create case study booklets that showcase several of your best customer success stories

Industry awards

Include customer case studies in your award applications to enhance your credibility. Nothing demonstrates that you have an award-winning product or service better than stories of satisfied customers.

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The 3 Latest Reasons to Get Excited About St. Louis Startups

There have been a whole lot of exciting announcements recently in the St. Louis startup scene.

First there’s the Regional Enterpreneurship Initiative, supported by a number of local public and private organizations, intended to invest a total of $100 million into the local startup ecosystem over the next five years. Techli reports:

“A year ago, I asked what we needed to provide the best environment to help our best startups grow,” said St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley. “The answer came back with a resounding, ‘Get them more money.’  So, today, we are saying we need the money, and we are putting an aggressive plan in place to raise that capital.  This guarantees the best new companies will stay in St. Louis and thrive for years to come.”

slide-1-638This comes just days after the St. Louis Tech Startup Report was published by ITEN, highlighting the current strength of the St. Louis startup ecosystem. We’re already doing pretty well, according to the report, and hopefully the REI will only cause the St. Louis startup scene to get bigger and better.

And proving there’s a cool new St. Louis startup launching every day, just yesterday we saw the launch of St. Louis startup Muzio, a social media curation app that “allows users to organize photos, videos, audio clips, notes and quotes in a simple and elegant package.”

Co-founders Reshma Chamberlin and Elizabeth Buchanan were featured in the St. Louis Business Journal.



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It’s a secret

A developer friend of mine who recently moved back to town and I are collaborating on a project I’m very excited about.  Watch this space in early August for more info.

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Peanut Butter and Game Jam

Another April, another STL Game Jam at local game design firm Simutronics.

For those of you just tuning in, a game jam is a 48-hour event where you divide up into teams and create a playable game of some kind — video game, board game, card game, mobile game, etc — from beginning to end. I’ve been doing game jams for the past year or so and they are always a lot of fun.

At the game jam last August, my team created a Wherigo game, which is a located-based GPS-driven mobile app game based on geocaching. We had so much fun that we’re doing it again, and the word spread and long story short, we’ve got about 25 geocachers here on-site creating about four Wherigo games:

Ch-Ch-Chain — a Wherigo based on the Chain of Rocks bridge

Meet Me in 1904 — an augmented reality game where you visit the sites of the 1904 World’s Fair exhibition halls and stage a rescue

And a couple of other games just taking shape.

We’ve had geocachers from as far as North Carolina fly out to our game jam for this event.  I can’t wait to play all the games.

For more info on what all the other teams are working on, check out the STL Game Jam website, where Simutronics intern Chelsea is liveblogging the event.

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The Top 1 Way to Improve the Performance of your Startup

“Starting a company is hard. It’s not easy. It’s not for the faint of heart. There’s a million ways to fail, and only one way to succeed,” said Tom Cox of Coolfire Solutions, as he addressed a room of St. Louis startup entrepreneurs at the February meetup of StartLouis.

There’s a ton of advice out there for would-be entrepreneurs just getting started, and a lot of it’s confusing and contradictory. Cox, on the other hand, offered his audience what he called the Top 1 ways to improve performance of your startup: “Build something great that people love.”

That’s what Cox did at Coolfire Solutions. Coolfire Solutions is a software development shop dedicated to creating simple and functional technology that directly improves the lives of the people who use it. Coolfire makes solutions that are easy for anyone to use, not just techies.

The best way to get people to love your product is to make it very easy to adopt, hard to forget, and impossible to live without, according to Cox. “Don’t write a user manual for your product. If you have to create a user manual, you’ve already failed. Make sure when people pick up your product, they already know how to use it,” said Cox.

Back in 2006 when he founded his company, Cox gathered a great team of technologists and artists, or as he put it, “My goal in 2006: Create a team of people who can change the world and then get out of their way. My goal in 2013: Lead a team of people who can change the world, and then get out of their way.”

Some products the Coolfire team has created are Viewpoint, a simple and easy to use iPad reader for SharePoint; RONIN, a real-time tactical situational awareness app for the military; and Reconn, a mobile SATCOM toolkit that weighs 10lbs.

In addition to advising that St. Louis entrepreneurs create great products that people love, Cox also emphasized how important it is for entrepreneurs to love what they are doing. “Find what you’re passionate about. Come up with a way to make it amazingly better. Figure out how to monetize it. Do it in that order. Don’t skip any steps,” said Cox. Because finding something you believe will make money, and then trying to get passionate about it later, won’t work.

“I’ll leave you with this question,” said Cox to the St. Louis startup community. “What are you going to build? Is it going to be great? Is it going to be something people will love? And if so, why aren’t you already building it?”


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The Geek’s Guide to Surviving the Global Game Jam

Welcome! If you are reading this, you’ve probably heard about “that Global Game Jam thing”, and think it sounds cool and maybe you want to try it. You have chosen wisely! It is cool and you will enjoy yourself. That said, I’ve compiled a list of tips so that you can make the Global Game Jam an even better experience.

What is the Global Game Jam, exactly?

The Global Game Jam is a weekend of 48 solid hours of game-making awesomeness. You arrive on Friday, watch the keynotes, learn the theme, and divide up into teams and spend the weekend creating a game around that theme. The 2013 Global Game Jam will start at 5pm (in your time zone) on January 25th and goes for ~48 hours through January 27, 2013. For more detailed info, check out the STL Game Jam FAQ and Global Gam Jam FAQ.

What kinds of games can we create?

All kinds! I’ve helped create a traditional platformer in the spirit of the original NES, a flash game about kitties catching rainbow scales, and a geocaching Whereigo smartphone game about zombies. And it’s not just limited to video games — you can also create a board game or a card game during the Global Game Jam.

I’m not a programmer.

You don’t have to be! I’m a writer, and I help with story concepting, character creation, and dialogue scripting. Artists and animators, both 2D and 3D, are always in demand to create a sleek-looking game. And if you know sound, you are golden — EVERYONE will want you on their team. But you don’t have to know any of those things. The Global Game Jam is about learning new skills and having fun.

Now, onward to tips on how to survive the Global Game Jam.


Take them. Go walk around outside for 10 minutes. Take deep breaths. Do something not related to video games for 20 minutes. Call your mother. Go on a food run. Watch cat videos on your phone. Game Jam is a totally intense and rewarding experience. Emphasis on intense. You are going to be in a confined space with a bunch of other people, and all of you will be short on sleep, energy, and privacy. There’s no shame if you have to unplug your brain for a few minutes so you don’t go on a rampage.


Eat it. Game Jam is the kind of intense experience where it’s easy to put your head down and keep working and then surface for air and realize you haven’t eaten for 12 hours. Game Jam will often feed you some meals, but you should also bring some supplies of your own. Protein bars, fruit, beef jerky, trail mix, and peanut butter are good for protein, and you’ll want some of that. Sugar crashes are no fun, and less so during Game Jam.


Drink them. Coffee, tea and energy drinks will give you a quick hit of energy, and that’s useful, but be sure to drink some actual water to stay hydrated. Also think about packing actual fruit juice and vitamin water. Soda does not count.


Do it. Four hours at the minimum. Six is better. Or at least try to take 20-minute power naps every few hours.


Do it. Put soap on a washcloth, get it wet, and rub it all over your body. Brush your teeth, put on deodorant, change your clothing a few times over the course of the weekend. You’ll feel better, and your teammates will thank you.

Packing Suggestions:

– Laptop, netbook, tablet, or some kind of portable computer with WI-FI enabled
– Power cord and/or extra batteries
– Paper and pencil to write and draw with
– Other art supplies
– bottled water
– snacks
– caffeine (Protip: individual instant packs of coffee are amazing)

So, that’s it! Otherwise, show up, work hard, have fun! We’ll see you in a week at the 2013 Global Game Jam!

Caitlin Moriarity is a technology, pop culture and web content writer in St. Louis, MO. This is her second global game jam. You can find her at her website. Crossposted to the STL Game Jam website.

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The 24 Comic Crunch is going awesomely — I’ve already written a 12-page comic script for my new space pulp project.

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