Kickstarting PROCJAM

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Currently on Kickstarter Mike Cook is raising funds towards the 2017 edition of PROCJAM, a yearly 9-day sprint to make things that make things.

I’ve been involved at some level the last couple of years: in 2015, I wrote Annals of the Parrigues sort of because of PROCJAM even if not strictly during the timeframe of the event (so you can decide for yourself if that counts as participating, I suppose). Last year, Mike invited me to Falmouth to the day of kickoff talks for PROCJAM, where I spoke about Annals and was recorded as part of the string of talks there. Falmouth also hosted a workshop adjacent to that, where I had a chance to talk with other researchers in the space about what more and better casual procedural text generation tools might look like.

This year, I’m contributing to the fundraising effort: if you back the Kickstarter at £10 or above, you’ll get a mixtape of procedural toys and gizmos, including some Annals of the Parrigues-related materials from me.

I like PROCJAM for a lot of reasons, and it’s simply gotten better over the years, to the point where I now consider it one of the best projects out there in terms of supporting a creative community. Why?

  • Subject matter. An easy one, perhaps, but PROCJAM defines itself broadly enough to be interesting (“make something that makes something”) but narrowly enough that contributors’ work is likely to be interesting to other contributors.
  • Inspiration. Mike is passionate about this subject and communicates that well — and he brings in other creators to give talks about what inspires them. PROCJAM also features a zine called Seeds covering lots of past procgen projects.
  • Resources. In past years, PROCJAM coordinators have put together elements like art packs for participants to use, and supplied links to potentially useful resources. This year, they’re upping the ante by building tutorials in different areas of procedural generation as well.
  • Accessibility. Mike has thought a lot and collected a lot of feedback about how to make PROCJAM’s resources as open as possible to anyone who wants to partake. Related events occur in accessible buildings. Talks are recorded and made available for free, along with all the other resources. The jam itself is defined to take place over a 9-day period rather than over a weekend, making it a better fit for those of us too busy or too old to commit to staying up for 48 hours intensively working on a project.
  • Cross-community communication. Again, this has taken intentional work, but Mike solicits talks and input from indie creators and artists, academics in PCG and creative computing, and people with game industry experience, getting groups to talk to one another who often do not communicate nearly enough. Last year’s talk sequence also had an excellent gender balance, which I am guessing is also not the result of pure chance. At the same time, PROCJAM is very much framed as being open to all comers.
  • Coverage and feedback. Participating projects actually get video coverage made by Jupiter Hadley as part of the event’s output, along with whatever responses might come in from other PROCJAMmers or bloggers.

So, a good thing. Funds this year will help pay the artists, video makers, and tutorial-creators who contribute their time to building up PROCJAM’s resources, adding yet another bullet point to why this is good:

  • Compensating community-support labor.

On which notes: if you’re interested in the long history of IF-related competitions and jams specifically, here is a survey of them I put together in 2015; and the IFTF is another organization worth knowing about if you’re interested in community support and accessibility drives.

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