This past weekend, around 15,00 people gathered around the world for the Global Game Jam with one simple purpose: Create a game in less than 48 hours. This kind of rapid development is the essence of the different game jam events around the world, like Ludum Dare, the Nordic Game Jam, the Toronto Game Jam (aka T.O.Jam) and VFS’s very own 2Jam.
What is a Global Game Jam?
You might think, “Ok, got it — a game jam is something like a game making marathon.” And you’d be right to think that, but you’d also be wrong. Sorry. A game jam is not only a game making marathon — it’s also a great chance to network with industry professionals and celebrate a common interest: game design.
The global game jam is so big that it has set the guinness world record for being the largest jam in the world.
So, why do people do this?
Well it depends, everyone has different reasons. For instance, amateur game developers, or people who have never made a game before, might like to learn new things about games. Veterans come to jams to try things that might be too risky on their own projects. But, overall, the main reason people go to a game jam is to have fun!
Do I need to stay there for the entire weekend?
You don’t have to, but I mean, the floors are really comfy. You can do it if you want — you will certainly feel like doing it once you are in the zone. Of course, if you want to go home and rest, that’s also perfectly ok — just make sure you are prepared for whichever you decide. Deodorant is your friend.
Awesome! Who wins the competition then?
Whoa, whoa, who said this was a competition? Although people can vote and choose the game they consider “the best”, the main objective of the jam is to gather people together to make games, have fun, work hard and be creative (does this sound familiar VFS students?). In fact, in a game jam, you are not even asked to finish a game, just to come and have fun.
See, even if you don’t finish your game, you will learn a lot by trying — and who knows, maybe next time you will bring something really valuable to the table. But if you do finish your game, then the possibilities are endless! It could get you some attention, expand your contacts — and who knows, maybe even land you your dream job!
At the very least — since this is not a competition, and collaboration is a common thing — I promise you that after the game jam, you will walk out with at least a new friend and some cool swag.
What do I need if I want to participate?
Nothing! Just bring a great attitude and be willing to have fun!
Don’t I need like… a computer, a team, or skills?
No! Remember, games are not only made on computers; you could make an analog game, a card game, a board game — even a sport or live action role playing game! All you need is an idea and the desire to make games!
So that’s it? Just come and have fun?
Yes! ….Well…Ok you got me, that’s not all of it. There are some rules to the game jam. For instance, to start with, the game is made in 48 hours. Also, you have to try and stick to a theme. Theme’s are normally part of the tradition, and are kept secret until just before the jam starts. Once you know the theme, that’s when your jam begins! Think of it as a guide for your game’s vision.
Apart from the theme, there are also things called diversifiers. Diversifiers are additional voluntary constraints or limitations you can apply to your game. It is like jamming in hard mode.
If you want to come with your own team and bring monster machines, then this would help, but you don’t have to worry so much about that — you can still come by yourself and find people in the jam to help you out with your project.
Most teams use popular game engines, such as the Unreal Development kit made by Epic Games, the Unity engine, or Flash. Some popular code libraries include FlashPunk made by Game Design instructor, Chevy Ray Johnson, or XNA. It all depends on what you feel comfortable using and what suits your game best, and if you don’t know any of these, don’t worry, someone there will surely know how to use one of this tools — feel free to reach out to anyone and ask for help, that’s the spirit of the jam!
What sets the Vancouver Global Game Jam apart from others?
I spotted people from all around Vancouver, from hobbyists to veterans — for example, the creator of Retro City Rampage, an open world game: Brian Provinciano, who also was a keynote speaker for the event. I also saw the legendary Chevy Ray Johnston, as well as students from a range of schools, including VFS, of course, and many more!
I know! If you have any questions or any comments, feel free to reach out to me — Happy jamming! I hope I get to see you there next year.
The Global Game Jam takes place during the last weekend of January, but if you can’t attend it, you can always make your own!