It usually takes a long time to develop a video game, but this weekend, local programmers will have just 48 hours to make one.
Starting tonight (Friday), everyone from established game designers to computer science students will be taking part in this year’s Global Game Jam, an international game-making event aimed at spurring creativity among teams of programmers, designers and artists. The Victoria event is being hosted at Fort Tectoria, and UVic’s Game Dev Club will be among the programmers feverishly working on games over the next two days.
“A lot of creative people come together to just rapid-fire make stuff and experiment with things that they just wouldn’t normally,” said Dylan Gedig of the club. “It’s a way to meet new people in the industry, as well as test out skills that you wouldn’t normally pursue.”
“You have people of all kinds of professions: game designers, programmers, artists, musicians,” said UVic Game Dev Club president Brandon Duncan.
Inspired by other game jams, the GGJ was founded in 2008 and has since ballooned from 1,650 participants in 23 countries to 28,800 participants from around the world. Last year, developers made 5,438 games – a testament to the event’s ability to get the creative juices flowing.
Each year has a different theme, and it’s often pretty vague. One year’s theme was the sound of a heartbeat, and the previous year was Ouroboros, the ancient symbol of a snake eating its tail.
“For the last game, it was ‘What do we do now?’” said Gedig. “We were spinning ideas for about an hour and had nothing, and one of our designers made this dumb joke. He was like, ‘What if we just theme it around deer? Like, What deer we doe now?’
“We ended up with this awful game about a deer running around an office, trying to get coffee for his boss and you’re just knocking all sorts of stuff over. That’s just kind of the weird stuff that comes out of this.”
While the GGJ used to be more of a contest, Gedig said running it like a competition killed the creative aspect of the jam.
“Instead of somebody being like, ‘I’ve never made a top-down adventure game,’ they would be like, ‘I’ve only ever made platformers so I’m going to make the best platformer I can because that’s what I know.’ It’s really not what it’s about,” he said. “You’re taking a weekend to do stuff differently than what you usually do, to expand your toolset.”
The game jam is also an opportunity for people with no game development experience to try their hand at different elements of game design. Participants can form teams prior to the event or they can show up and join a group.
“Last year, we had somebody in high school show up – he didn’t really know what he wanted to do in games, so we let him join our team and let him help with the design and showed him some coding basics,” said Gedig. “He was actually working actively on the game by the end of the weekend.”
And while they only have 48 hours, Gedig and Duncan stressed it’s not a caffeine-fuelled, all-night marathon.
“I think the first time everyone does a game jam, they go into it with that mentality,” said Gedig. “They pound coffee Friday night and they’re up until 4 a.m., and then they hit that crash on Saturday.”
“You can pretty quickly get into negative productivity,” said Duncan. “You just start writing code that’s going to give you another hour of work the next day.”
On Sunday night, the teams will show off their games, which will also be posted on the GGJ’s official website. Additionally, the UVic Game Dev Club will be streaming their development process through the online video platform Twitch.tv for those who can’t attend the jam.
Tickets are currently sold out, but to watch the online stream, visit Twitch.tv and search “Global Game Jam.” For more information, visit globalgamejam.org.