How a Pepsi consultant burned a "$400k game jam" down

Just imagine being invited to a televised game development jam, reportedly sponsored by Pepsi to the tune of $400k, where you'd be among a dozen contestants organized into teams to compete for prizes. Imagine accommodating oneself to what GAME_JAM turned out to be, with demanding legal waivers and a pressurized Kitchen Nightmares-style format. Then imagine that the guy in charge–a consultant named Matti Leshem–asks you "Do you think you're at an advantage because you have a pretty girl on your team?"

"He got a rise out of me," reports participant Adriel Wallick. "He got me to, with an embarrassed and flushed red face launch into a statement about how his question is indicative of everything that is wrong in our industry in terms of sexism. That no, we weren't at an advantage because we had a woman on our team – we were at an advantage because I'm a damn fine programmer and game developer. We were at an advantage because my skills allowed us to be at an advantage – not my 'pretty face'."

Leshem, however, seems to have understood what he was doing, adding that he knew what a "sensitive topic" misogyny was in the game industry and pushing a similar question on all-male teams: "Do you think the teams with women on them are at a disadvantage?"

The amazing result, though, was not the easily-dramatised response footage he perhaps expected: instead, the developers collectively refused to participate further, forcing production to cease. From a report by participant Robin Arnott:

On the one hand this is the story of one asshole bringing months of hard work crashing to the ground. It's an incomplete picture of course: Leshem had a reputation of being an asshole before the show began. But the production's failings are only part of the story. "GAME_JAM" didn't crumble because of Leshem, and it didn't crumble because of the dishonest production. It crumbled because we, the developers, killed it.

Indie Statik's Jared Rosen was there to cover the resulting train wreck.

Matti once more pulled back his camera, making sure to privately half-apologize that he "marched with the women in the '70s" with "flowers in his hair." Finally, he cornered Zoe with a camera as everyone left for dinner, trying one last time to get a rise out of her. She told him to go fuck himself and marched off set. And that is precisely when everyone else realized something was wrong.

It took around twenty minutes for the man with flowers in his hair to storm out of the building sans job, his trilby, director's scarf and lit e-cig marking the last time I'd see him. But the damage was done.

A trilby. Of course.