GAME_JAM was supposed to be an online reality show that would shed light on the world of indie game development. After a day into shooting and $400,000 later, it never happened.
Polaris who is owned by Maker Studios who is owned by Disney organized the series. It was sponsored by Mountain Dew, and featured some of the prominent names in indie development. People like, Zoe Quinn (Depression Quest), Robin Arnott (Deep Sea), Davey Wreden (The Stanley Parable) and Adriel Wallick (Rock Band Blitz). The show would have featured a bunch of teams working to make a game. The show was pitched to be like Hell’s Kitchen, but with videogames. The premise sounds simple, and to gamers, pretty interesting, until the developers walked off.
There was a miscommunication between what the studio wanted and what the developers wanted, but a lot of blame was put on Polaris’ marketing consultant Matti Leshem. According to the various personal blogs of some of the talent, he allegedly attempted to pit the developers against each other and repeatedly asked sexist questions. Questions like, “do you think you’re at an advantage because you have a pretty girl on your team?” This statement offended Wallick, and despite Leshem’s attempt to smooth things over, the damage was done, and it worsened after he asked a similar question to an all male team.
“He had the audacity to approach me later and explain that it wasn’t personal,” says Wallick in her blog. “This wasn’t a personal attack on me – he knew this was a sensitive topic in the industry and wanted to address it.”
Some of the blame was corporate advertising getting in the way of the well being of the developers. Allegedly, only Mountain Dew products were allowed on screen, so drinking water was a hassle. But according to Wallick, it was only a minor issue.
The hostility eventually reached a boiling point and there was no going back. Despite flying out to Los Angeles for the recording, the developers decided it was not worth it. That is the end of Game Jam for now. The show is cancelled.