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Creating Windies Direct, a beacon for the Caribbean game dev scene

The Jamaica Game Developer Society shares how the proliferation of digital events paved the way for last year's debut show - and what comes next

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It's important to remember that game development is global as more and more creators work to draw attention to their local scenes. One of those efforts was the Windies Direct showcase by the Jamaica Game Developer Society (JGDS), focusing on Caribbean-developed indie games.

The October 2022 presentation was created by Raccine Malcolm, Zane Francis, Glen Henry, and Graham Reid. Speaking with, the organizers share their motivations and hopes for shining the light on the island and its diaspora.

The team explains that the driving force behind the presentation was multifaceted. "Without us even realizing it, it's been a long time coming. We've been a slow and steadily growing community, and we got to a point where we knew we had good things to show," Reid says. "On top of that, we hoped there were developers out there who we had yet to meet, and thankfully, but not surprisingly, that was true."

"People seem to be consistently shocked that we exist" Glen Henry, JGDS

Henry adds that the show was also meant to display a range of talent in the space and inspire more people to create their own titles.

"The main purpose of the event was to create a beacon for our regional developers and the audiences they seek," Francis explains. "We wanted to showcase the talent across the region and its diaspora."

Henry says that events such as Wholesome Direct and Game Developers of Color were part of the inspirations for the Windies Direct.

"With the shift in the culture of events to online during the pandemic, we thought there was a gap for our region we could try to fill," Francis adds. "The Caribbean is an underrepresented region, and we want to bring that representation to the forefront."

Reid expounds, "We figured that it was a good time to showcase what we've been working on. On top of that, the Caribbean has so much to show; who better to show it than us, the developers?"

Hemiogenic Studios' Street Boy

With guidance and consultation from Alanna Smith and Evva Karr, the co-executive producer and co-creator of the Future of Play Direct, the show received a submission of 19 games, and the show featured titles such as Hemiogenic Studios' Street Boy, Spritewrench Studios' Duppy Detective Tashia, and Weathered Sweater's Skator Gator 3D.

Henry noticed that the games being developed have different influences among younger and older creators.

"Younger devs have their own set of champions/idols they look up to, which in hindsight, makes sense. However, this completely changes the type of games they aspire to make. The 'older heads,' like myself, might be more focused on game-feel, drawing inspiration from teams like Vlambeer and arcade games. The new set is much more influenced by games like Undertale and Toby Fox, more interested in crafting deep narrative RPGs."

Francis highlights that the games, like their creators, are diverse and inclusive. "Diversity is what it is about. We want to add our voices to the chorus," he adds.

"I can't say whether the same creative styles are unlikely, but diversity brings change, new perspective, and new expression. The stories to be told and how they can be told in the fullness of the spectrum, and the Caribbean is quite broad."

The group explains that the reaction to the show was both positive and inspiring. "People seem to be consistently shocked that we exist and dig what we are doing with the JGDS," Henry said.

The presentation notes, "The Caribbean is a unique blend of cultures with strong influences from Europe, Africa, Asia, North & South America, and Native communities."

When asked what makes the Caribbean game developer scene unique, the three members of the JGDS explain that it's fueled by inspiration and making the best of available resources. Henry highlighted that game creators are still trying to find their own voices as the region is still emerging.

He adds, "It's a lot of experimentation and remixing things that we enjoy playing ourselves."

Francis says, "We have a saying in Jamaica, 'tun yuh hand mek fashion.' This [phrase] means use what little you have to do what seems impossible to achieve your goals. I've seen boundless levels of creative exploration across the Caribbean borne from necessity in the face of little resources."

"I think as a young scene as we explore our creative voices in game development, the unique flavor of our melting pot will present itself to the world, and then it is hard to miss."

Reid adds that the Caribbean is poised to create more game experiences inspired by its multifaceted cultural influences. "We are a culturally rich and diverse part of the world, and that will dictate the voice of our games to varying levels," he says.

"So once our industry starts to bloom, there will be tons of new experiences that we still need to explore" Graham Reid, JGDS

"We've yet to see any major Caribbean influences across the decades of gaming, so once our industry starts to bloom, there will be tons of new experiences that we still need to explore. However, even when some of the games fit very comfortably within existing genres, the culture that's been added to them sets them apart from the usual crowd."

Reid expounds, "We're paving our own path while learning from the industry at large and picking pieces that work for us."

With that in mind, the cohort notes that the community of game makers and educators within the islands focuses on helping develop skills rapidly.

The organisers acknowledged that the last few years paved the way to the first Windies Direct show.

"The silver lining with the pandemic is the rise of digital-only events and a myriad of discord groups. Over the past two years, I've met a lot of people I wouldn't have had the opportunity otherwise due to travel costs," Henry says.

We're paving our own path while learning from the industry at large"Graham Reid, JGDS

"These connections helped to amplify the message behind the event and allowed us to be taken a bit more seriously than we would have been otherwise."

Francis adds that the digital spaces and events helped amplify overlooked communities such as Black Voices in Gaming. The team also notes that their Discord network helped Windies Direct gain attention from the public and press coverage from Polygon.

Looking ahead, the team says there are already new ideas in the works, such as the intention of making the Windies Direct a yearly event. The future includes possible partnerships and collaborations with platform holders, including Valve, Sony, and Nintendo.

"We already have plans to include different types of content going forward. We're also planning to approach sponsors for the next event to support contributors and volunteers better," Henry explains.

Reid adds, "Almost nothing is off the table! We'd love to collaborate with the platform holders in different ways. Right now, it's just a matter of when it would make the most sense and what games people can bring to the table to make another strong showing."

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Jeffrey Rousseau avatar
Jeffrey Rousseau: Jeffrey joined in March 2021. Based in Florida, his work focused on the intersectionality of games and media. He enjoys reading, podcasts, staying informed, and learning how people are tackling issues.
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