TOJam or Toronto Game Jam is an annual game development event held in Toronto each Spring. The event is named for the common abbreviation for Toronto ("T.O."), and the term for an impromptu performance ("jam"), borrowed from jazz. The name of the event is knowingly evocative of "toe jam". The first TOJam event was held in May 2006.
TOJam is a live event that takes place over the course of a single weekend from Friday to Sunday (although some events have offered developers earlier access starting Thursday). Participants, called "jammers", come from a variety of backgrounds including hobbyists, students, and professionals and descend on the jam venue, often bringing their own equipment, favourite snack foods, and overnight gear. Most attendees are adults although some exceptions have been made for teenagers. Jammers enlist either solo or in teams, or can also enlist as graphics or sound "floaters", lending their skills to a number of different teams, who sign up for their services on a waiting list. While the majority of participants attend the event in person, recent jams have accommodated virtual jammers due to space limitations and geographical distance—although attendees are not limited to Torontonians and have included Americans and Finnish participants.
Unlike other game jams, TOJam is not a competition, but is rather a weekend of intense focus during which game developers can pour their attention into a single project, with the goal of producing a finished, playable game by the end of the weekend. From the official kick-off Friday evening, jammers have a scant 48 hours to complete their games before the event draws to a close, and participants display their games for an informal Sunday night showcase.
A follow-up event, the TOJam Arcade, is scheduled a month or more after the main TOJam event. Unlike the Sunday night showcase, which is mainly intended for the jammers themselves, the Arcade is open to the public. Its scheduling allows (and encourages) jammers to fine-tune their games before presenting them to a less forgiving audience of consumers, rather than creators. Historically, the TOJam Arcade has been held in a bar or pub in downtown Toronto.
At each Arcade event, attendees vote for their favourite games, which are awarded Gold, Silver and Puce standards. These "winning" games receive priority placement on the TOJam website, but it is worth stressing that the goal of the event is to facilitate completed games and to unite the Toronto game development community; the People's Choice Award aspect is tangential to the event.
Each year, TOJammers are strongly encouraged to include a number of elements into their games. These elements have included:a splash screen indicating that the game was made at TOJam
a recording of the TTC subway doors closing
a picture of a goat on a pole, which may be rendered in a style of the developer's choosing
When the Toronto Game Jam began, Toronto was not a recognized city for game development, as it was overshadowed by Vancouver and Montreal, where major studios like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft had settled. Lacking opportunities, people began to leave the city. The event was first suggested by Nelson Yu, a developer-turned-writer, in the IGDA community boards as a way to get more local game development, in an attempt to retain talent. The first TOJam occurred in 2006.
TOJam carries on a good-natured rivalry with the Nordic Game Jam, with which it competes for attendance and output. This rivalry has not been officially acknowledged by the organizers of the Nordic Game Jam.