Self-Care Jam was a game jam created by Jessica Hayley dedicated to making “stuff that makes us happy.” I participated myself, (creating a self-care calendar for December that gives, among other things, a self-care suggestion and a cute animal photo every day) but I found that a perfect form of self-care was sitting down with a hot cup of tea (or several) and working my way through all 36 other submitted projects in one wonderfully cozy afternoon.
The projects were incredibly varied, being that the jam allowed “games, poems, comics, music, crafts, or whatever else” in the spirit of its “no competition, no risk, and no pressure” rules. This is incredibly important in a time where creativity can be hard due to the myriad of problems in the world, and led to a truly beautiful collection of submissions, from gorgeous music (Lena Raine’s Rehab and Jordan Mallory’s the old life EP) to Twitter bots (Alayna Cole’s @selfcare_bot and Kate Grey’s @5minselfcare) to, of course, games.
This also means there’s certainly something for everyone, and unfortunately there’s no way that I could cover everything here, so I highly recommend taking a look through the submissions for what appeals to you. That said, here are some of my favourites.
A Trilogy of Meditations on Emotions
A crucial part of self-care can be putting thoughts and feelings down into art, and Losing Control by Lisandwich, this year i’ve been by Bri Rogers, and Swampstar by Totsi all explore this in different ways. Games can be a wonderful facilitator for exploring the emotions of both creator and player, and these three are perfect examples.
Losing Control is described as “a game about the importance of negative emotions” in which you play as a young woman in a blizzard who experiences a number of feelings and slowly grows to appreciate how they can help her rather than hold her back. This focus on progress and improvement creates a beautifully touching and hopeful game.
this year i’ve been is an interactive poem in the same vein; about, in Rogers’ words, “being alive and taking care of yourself.” It again features themes of hope and progress, as well as the importance of self-forgiveness.
Swampstar is a brief experience made memorable long beyond its short runtime by its gorgeous pixel art, soundtrack, and meditation on the nature of control and our lack thereof, in the galactic scheme of things.
A Trilogy About Love
After spending some time with your feelings, it’s always good to take a break. Many of the Self Care Jam games focused on this idea, with two focusing specifically on taking time out to love yourself. You can accompany yourself on a date with Dancing With Myself by Ms. 45, and/or visit the self-love hotel by malibudreamhaus for a moment of peace, reflection, and recharging. Sometimes walking through virtual steps in self-care and self-love helps to carry these practices through to real life, and both of these games are perfect for that.
And in This Dungeon is So Cool! by Alex Zandra Van Chestein, spread some love and positivity through the demons of the underworld, and receive some yourself, on your way to find your missing partner.
Quickfire Round: A Multitude of Calm Spaces
Sometimes you just want to step out of the world into a new space for a moment. This jam produced so many fabulous examples of games that allow you to do just that, travelling from space to a beautiful garden to, well, a golf course on someone’s partially-clothed selfie.
You heard that last part right - ONE BUTTON NIPPLE GOLF, by jrap is a single click golf game played on someone’s partially-clothed (or, in later levels, unclothed) selfie. If you’re not already sold, it’s multiplayer.
But wait, there’s more!
For something a little more down to earth but no less interesting, 12/4/16 by Belinda Zoller is a Twine-based journal entry that explores the altogether too relatable difficulties of being creative and avoiding distractions. Similarly grounded and engrossing, It’s a Beautiful Day by yllogique has you walk the main character through simple, every day activities, accompanied by beautiful animations.
If you don’t want to spend time alone in one of these virtual spaces, consider hanging out with Buddy, by Toxijuice. Buddy is, as the name suggests, a sweet companion to keep you company. Alternatively, make some Color Friends in Cadence’s bright, excitable physics simulator, or help an old woman get ready for an adventure in Bricabrac’s adorable hand drawn dress up game Granny Goes Outside.
Two parallel games allow you to explore the sky: Altitude by linseyray puts you in control of a paper aeroplane soaring through the rose tinted clouds…
…while Soundgazing by Jessica Hayley allows you to play music with the stars in the night sky.
Finally, several games focus on the calming power of nature, including Garden of Calm by Olivia (are you very small, or is the garden very large?), fun places to visit by Grace Buxner (this one also includes space!), and Overoptimistic plant takes care of you, by Ludipe (this plant is my good friend now).
It’s incredible how many approaches there are to creating a self care experience in just one week, especially when the rules are relaxed and intended to allow creativity to flow however it wants to. I very much hope more welcoming and open jams crop up in future, and in the meantime I highly recommend checking out some of these games and any other submissions that appeal to you – and to be sure to take care of yourselves!