Let me guess. You think you’re crazy about gaming, right? If they had those “Biggest fan” shows for gaming, you’d win, right?


Sure, you’ve spent countless hours collecting trophies. You’ve saved the world a billion times. You’re one of the top rated players in your favorite game. But you won’t truly know what gaming is all about until you’ve been aboard Train Jam, the train full of game developers who spend 52 hours creating a new game en route to Game Developers Conference.

The crew and passengers aboard Train Jam are a billion time more in love with gaming than the rest of us.  Just five minutes spent aboard this train is enough to make you look at games in an all new light.

The next Train Jam, which will begin on February 23rd 2017, will be the fourth time the train has carried its genius IQ cargo to GDC.

At GDC, game developers spend all day and all night talking about making video games. So you’d think that on the way to the conference they might like to, oh, I dunno, relax, listen to some tunes, read, you know… basically do something non-gaming just for a little bit.

Instead, the passengers aboard Train Jam spend 52 hours travelling from Chicago to San Francisco talking about, making, and playing games. And many will miss the stunning scenery as they’re engrossed in their games.

Last time, the train departed at 2pm and head for the flats of Iowa before tearing through the Colorado mountains and finally making its way to Emeryville, California.

This is the 4th year of Train Jam. And it’s showing no signs of slowing.

The last time Train Jam ran, in April, there were over 200 of us waiting at the platform, and the buzz was palpable. This year, it’s only going to get bigger. Tickets for this years GDC haven’t even gone on sale yet, but already the gaming world is getting hype about the ride. My game developers friends are in deep conversations about the games they plan to work on during the ride. And I can’t wait to play them in their beautiful unfinished states.

There is still plenty of time to get onboard the train. Tickets go on sale on November 24th and are expected to sell out sharpish.  That’s partly because the train isn’t just dedicated to game designers. It carries regular passengers too.

Speaking of which, can you imagine what it’s likely being a passengers surrounded by tons of game making folk coding games while you play?

Train Jam must be a crazy ride. But Amtrak seem to be happy enough about it. The train company has officially teamed up with organisers Adriel Wallick and John Lindvay for the first time ever. Thanks to this, there are plenty of seats available, and I am personally going to be asking my editor if I can grab one and have him pick up the expenses.

First class the ride isn’t. In between making games the developers sleep in regular chairs. Chairs they are wedged in for two days straight. Chairs they have to share with laptops. Shares some of them may very well create their finest work in.

That said, there are niceties. The train has a friendly restaurant and there are many familiar faces as most of the guests have traveled to GDC together before. There’s a real sense of family on the train, one that is often lacking in the gaming development industry most of the time. So many of the developers use the ride as an opportunity to reconnect and to share their most recent games with friends.

What’s best about Train Jam is that it gives you a sense of the real passion there is in the gaming industry. I’m no game developer, though I do know how to code. But I am a passionate gamer. For people like me, Train Jam shows you the sheer passion and dedication that these talented game creators have.

Train Jam is a real eye opener. There’s really nothing like it. When you get to GDC itself you’re in the eye of the storm. That’s when talented developers are all about business and networking. Train Jam is something different. The intimacy of having so many talented game creators right next to you; it just has to be experienced.

There should be two tiers of tickets for Train Jam. There should be tickets for people who actually want to make games on the train. And there should be tickets for the rest of us, we gamers who just want to bask in this creative brilliance and soak up some of the passion that goes into making games. It’s an absolute eye-opener. And after you’ve been aboard Train Jam, you will never look at games the same way. After Train Jam you will never again see games are just “entertainment”. After Train Jam, you’ll see games as the babies of creative geniuses who love the gaming industry in a way most of us can only imagine.

Some game developers make whole games on Train Jam. Other’s just create wonderful new aspects of games, levels, or other such gaming matter.

A famous example of a game made on Train Jam came from Media Molecule, developer of the PS4 game Dreams.

Media Molecule made “Rocket Game” for their title “Dreams” aboard Train Jam back in the spring of 2016. While they were on the train, lots of developers approached the Media Molecule team and asked about their game. The team explained that Dreams allows to very quickly make games and elements in real time.

Thanks to titles like Dreams anyone can start to make games, or at least to experiment with elements of games. Maybe I’ll just use a level creator next time I’m on Train Jam so I can at least flex my creative muscles a little.

Dreams PS4 - Rocket Game made on Train Jam 2016! | Media Molecule Live Stream

Categories: gaming

Paul Harrison

Paul M Harrison is an entertainment journalist, novelist, and blogger, and a specialist in the theory of storytelling. Paul Harrison can be contacted via his personal website or on Twitter or Facebook.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *