Firstly, congratulations everyone! SA GAME JAM 2016 had a total of 42 entries made over the event’s weekend (not including the couple games made by the judges and a few games that never got to the point of submitting).

And congratulations to those that jammed together at the jam locations (and especially to those that organized the in-person jams). We hope you had a great experience, learned from those around you, and made some friends in the process!

Judging these games wasn’t easy. Partly because of the high volume of entries, but mainly that there were so many games deserving of consideration.

Having said this, the greatest congratulations belongs to the winners. Those teams (and individuals) that spent a weekend building games, and created something spectacular.

Here are the winners:

The “overall winner” was the game that we thought provided the most novel experience, and best embodied the theme.

OVERALL WINNER: A.I. - Anomalous Identity by @blacksheepZA, @mmillions_, Masa Cloud, @awolflikeyou

Anomalous Identity was a sheer pleasure to play, and was a contender in the judges minds before the game’s halfway mark. The experience is full of surprises and humour, and the elements all work brilliantly together, from the pitch-perfect visual design to the ceaselessly clever writing. Anomalous Identity is built within the confines of a hypertext adventure, but it feels as if the creators bent the platform to do the unexpected every step of the way.

Anomalous Identity does not embody the theme of the jam as well as some other entrants. While different playthroughs did produce different sequences of events and even some divergence, Anomalous Identity is more concerned with the concept of “Expression” than of empowering the player to be expressive, yet the game explores the concept from a novel position.

And the fact that, when playing the game, Rodain died from following too many cat gif links was unnervingly prescient, and as much a true expression of a person’s character as I have ever witnessed.

Every line of text and every image feels considered, which is remarkable for a game made in just 72 hours, and by an inexperienced team of hobbyist game developers, and it makes awarding Anomalous Identity this prize easy.


The Student Prize was the hardest award to decide on. The quality of student entries were exceptionally high, but we managed to narrow it to two games, both having merits, but on very different axises.

We broke the deadlock by looking at community participation on the forums (as promised), and while both teams were active, one had seemingly played more of the other jam games.

STUDENT PRIZE: B.Y.O.S.S by @Kobusvdwalt9, @The_Sired_Ward

Kobus van der Walt has something of a reputation for elegant, slickly minimal games, and Build Your Own Solar System is no exception. But what feels different here is that in B.Y.O.S.S the player is constantly building instead of evading death, and while there certainly is still a sense of impending doom, the game gives way to something meditative, where expanding one’s own colourful system of slowly rotating orbs becomes a reward in itself. And this is accompanied by a beautiful tinkling electronic melody.

It’s a pity the team had to stop at 48 hours, as the game is so immediately enjoyable, I’m certain a 72 hour version would have been an even richer experience. But as it stands it is still an awesome achievement.


HOBBYIST PRIZE: ShishkaBOOM by @jackshiels, Sam Shiels

It would be fair to say that ShishkaBOOM was the most fully realized game in the entire competition, even including an online leaderboard and a basic tutorial. But even without these elements of polish, exploding a kebab around a field in order to skewer delicious treats proves to be a satisfying interaction.


Anomalous Identity would have been eligible for this prize, but having already won the Overall prize the judges thought it should go to another excellent game, a game that through the quirks of the category setup had fared worse than it deserved (having already been squeezed out of the Student category).

DIVERSITY PRIZE: Helping Hand by @BenCrooks, @ErNerDragoon, @PartyPanda

Helping Hand is probably the smartest embodiment of the theme. The game limits the player to just the fingers on one hand as their entire source of agency in the world, having had the player involved in a disastrous car accident off screen, just before the events of the game.

Using just their left hand the player must navigate their way through their new hospitalized existence, and while an errant gesture can lead to disastrous consequence, the joy of the game is provoking reactions from the wonderfully written cast of dismal hospital-bed visitors.

The imagery of the game is right out of a safety instruction manual, clearly done this way with a sly sense of irony. And the blank faces, while calming in an instructive illustration, serve to create a monotone and frustrating hospital experience, which was clearly the point, one that is driven home by the apathy most of the cast show towards you.


ART: Leviathan & The Neverending Journey by @MattMac

When considering the winner for the art prize, we were considering execution, art direction, and innovation. Where Leviathan shone was in how the art defined the experience: even though mechanically the game did not change much, there were many different painted scenes. The player’s exploring more of the world, and see more of the art, seemed to become core to Leviathan’s experience.

The look was loose, filled with scribbles and visible digital brush strokes, and this was consistent throughout, so that it was seldom the case that any particular art asset looked out-of-place. Without those kinds of distractions, it became easier to immerse oneself in the exploration and mood, and the visuals took on a more personal and charming nature. In the tight timeframe of jams, there’s a tendency to see many games with flat colours, primitive shapes and clean lines due to the efficiency of that kind of art direction, so seeing the stark departure from that in Leviathan was quite refreshing with its organic, hand-drawn look.

Honourable mentions:

ShishkaBOOM by @jackshiels, Sam Shiels
Individually, the game had what was arguably the best-executed assets among the entrants, and was only held back by inconsistent art direction.

Plantanica by Rudi Lotter, Daniel Bowden, Nadia De Klerk, Muhammad Seedat, Kishen Patel, Kenny Webb, Robert Marufu
The game’s plant illustrations in particular had a great deal of personality.

Helping Hand by @ErNerDragoon, @BenCrooks, @PartyPanda
The illustrations looked as if they came straight out of a textbook or manual, which was a great direction and contributed to the game’s humour.


Audio was another category where the judges found themselves at a tie. But in this case the judges chose a different solution, as the games that were tied in this category shared (some of) the same audio team. So we decided to split the prize.

Freedom of Oppression! by @atomicdomb, @Greg, @Andrew_Sound_Foundry, @kevinh, Frank Latter
Synth Band by @Tuism, @Greg, @Wolfbeard

Both games used audio brilliantly, but in very different ways. Freedom of Oppression included a lot of expertly recorded dialogue (all voiced by the multitalented Kevin Hoole), and hearing all the combinations of voices (as well as the lengthy monologue at the start) added a huge amount of entertainment to the game.

Synth Band, on the other hand is a music toy built in VR. Synth Band may have been the game that best embodied the theme of the jam, being about constructing music in a novel environment, with no goals, just the beauty of the audio as the player’s reward. The excellent quality of the audio (as well as the novelty of throwing notes around in VR) are what make this experience exceptional.

Honourable mentions:

Soundscapes by @Sugboerie
Drawing audio sources in the game world was surprisingly compelling. We’d love to see more made out of Soundscapes.


NARRATIVE: A.I. - Anomalous Identity by @blacksheepZA, @mmillions_, Masa Cloud, @awolflikeyou

Anomalous Identity begins with a bootup sequence, and immediately confounds player expectations with its first surprise. The game carries on in this fashion, always one step ahead of the player, always giving slightly more than the player expects. The strong writing carries the game, but it’s the entire package that is telling the story.

Honourable mentions:

Helping Hand by @BenCrooks, @ErNerDragoon, @PartyPanda
The concept of hospitalizing the player, and only allowing them to communicate with their left hand is brilliant. It keeps all the communication diegetic, removing the sense of having only arbitrary options to choose from. This gives the player a greater sense of role playing, and imbeds them deeply in the narrative. Along with the sharp writing and environmental storytelling this was a very strong contender for the Narrative prize.

Expression by @Jelligeth
The unveiling of the overall story through small snippets from different points of view was very interesting. We would like to see progress on this kind of narrative in a way that more tightly integrates with gameplay.


TECHNICAL EXCELLENCE: Super Slide by @Miltage

Super Slide was a pretty entertaining sandbox that was built around the idea of drawing many different shaped water-slides. The drawing seemed very smooth, and it was difficult to see where the polygons started or ended. The collisions were also handled well, with the riders not bouncing unnecessarily or getting snagged between the geometry (aside from, perhaps, the very start). It was quite satisfying to draw screens upon screens of water slides with no apparent end in sight.

The characters’ waving arms and the game’s overall aesthetic wrapped it up in a neat little package, and it seems as if this could quite easily be built upon with a few more toys and some audio.

Honourable mentions:

Expressive Solutions by @Thelangfordian
This game was considered because it allowed players to create their own geometry in the game.


Other honourable mentions:

Potato Hands by @creative630, @NickCuthbert, @Mexicanopiumdog, Aemeluis J Ferreira
This is a game about being a potato, growing hands, and then fighting other potatoes. Nothing else needs to be said.

The judges who sacrificed their time judging the games, and who you should blame should you disagree with their decisions, are :

Evan Greenwood
Jonathan Hau-Yoon
Rodain Joubert
Francois van Niekerk

The judges tried the best they could to award the prizes in a way that rewarded the finest of the games entered, as well as trying to bear in mind the expectations of the entrants (which is always tricky). If you feel anything is amiss, or would like more transparency in some regard, please post your suggestions or thoughts.

Please send Shaz at Free Lives a mail to tell us your banking details and whether you can travel to A MAZE Johannesberg and/or display their games at EGE Cape Town. If you are a winner feel free to contact Free Lives at


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