Postcards from the Global Game Jam

By Zach Lehman, Albert T. Ferrer and Jill Duffy [02.06.09]  The Global Game Jam, born from the International Game Developer's Education Special Interest Group, was held last weekend, Jan. 30 through Feb. 1, in more than a dozen countries around the world.

Thousands of college students, faculty, and video game industry members and the general public joined together in their respective cities and college towns for a 'round-the-clock, 48-hour, video game building extravaganza, more casually known as a game jam.

When the clock struck 5 p.m. in the local time zone, each regional group kicked off its event and announced the theme of the challenge.

The Global Game Jam was the brainchild of Susan Gold, faculty and international development manager for the Master's of Digital Media Program in Vancouver, and chair of the Education SIG of the IGDA.

"I wanted to find a project that explored the incredible creative collaborative nature of video games," Gold said in a prepared statement prior to the event. "I thought a global experience would really show the strength of the game development community by having a project that crossed all cultural boundaries and everyone could participate simultaneously."

GameCareerGuide has collected these postcards from a few sites that took part in the Game Jam.

The Beginning
Global Game Jam, New York: Columbia Teachers College

New Yorkers participated in the Global Game Jam at two events: one at New York University, and one uptown at Columbia Teachers College.

At 5 p.m., the theme was announced:

"As long as we have each other, we will never run out of problems"

Each group was then to develop a playable game, in 48 hours, that fit this these while also incorporating a secondary theme of their choice: illusionary, pointed, or persistent.

I checked into the event when everyone was still fresh-faced at about 7 p.m. Friday. I found (l-r) Chris Makris of Powerhead Games, Niki Yoshiuchi also of Powerhead Games, and Stefan Woskowiak, a Full Sail University alumnus, brainstorming in a stairwell.Photo

When asked which secondary theme they would use, they said they didn't know and hadn't seemed to even consider it. We'll pick something later, they said, and make it fit. We'll use a literal interpretation and actually make something "pointy" for pointed, they said.

Jill Duffy,

The Middle
Global Game Jam Pittsburgh: Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon's ETC center in Pittsburgh was one of 53 worldwide locations participating in this past weekend's Global Game Jam. More than 50 people divided into 10 teams set on making a playable and fun game in 48 hours.
The teams used a wide array of platforms, including but not limited to Unity3D, Flash, PyGame and a custom engine.

In my previous experience with game jams, most teams fail to produce a solid working game in the time given. At CMU, this was not the case. All 10 teams had completely working and mostly bug-free games at the end, which shattered the statistics that 90 percent of teams don't finish.

Zach Lehman, contract game designer and member of IGDA's Education SIG,
and student at Ohio State University

The End
Global Game Jam Vancouver: Simon Fraser University

The Vancouver Global Game Jam was hosted at Simon Fraser University and at the end, showcased five promising games, with bright futures if they were to be developed further.

Slast, a first-person, two-player, 3D game, with an RTS element, required players to strategically place obstacles on the board, or to duel to make it to their goal.
A Blob and his Boy, a sort of Lemmings-meets-Loco Roco side-scrolling platformer offered players a quirky art style combined with 3D elements in a 2D perspective.

Treelings was by far the most complete. In a charming traditional animation style, players control a vine that must grow to the top of the vertical level while avoiding obstacles. The game was compared to Sonic the Hedgehog by the judges, but more accurately could be likened to Sega's NiGHTS, with the versatile movement of the vine.

Scorched Physics, a strategy game in which players must contain a number of ships within a circle to score points, was an impressive display of physics, and by using different methods to stop your opponent from gaining points, you can alter the direction in which the ship physics travel.

For Shame, a maze game in which your decisions affect your gameplay, was set up in an overhead board game view. Players push blocks to get through to the next area. Unlike the other lighthearted game ideas, For Shame featured a much more serious tone: the main character is expressing her hatred and desire to escape a prison camp.

Albert T. Ferrer

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