Across the world, thousands of participants take part each year in the Global Game Jam, an event where game developers create games in a weekend and submit them to the Game Jam website. SUNY Broome hosted two participating teams this year.
The Game Jam commenced at 5 p.m. on Jan. 25 and continued until 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 27. Teams stayed in the Fairfield Inn nearby overnight, working in the Applied Technology Atrium at the Applied Technology Building by day. The two team leaders directed their teams with the main focus on enjoying the process and learning new skills.
Josiah Bahl, a software engineer for L3 Communication Systems-West who attended the jam, said that the event was a way for people to have fun and meet new people.
“Video games are supposed to be fun, so we want people to have fun doing this and we also want people to connect,” Bahl said. “These people are all strangers with each other and they’re spending three days trying to create the best video game they can.”
Every year, the Global Game Jam is centered around a theme; this year’s theme asked the question, “What does home mean to you?” provoking participants to create games that explore personal narrative themes of home.
Although most participants go with the medium of video games, teams can opt to design a board game, a physical activity or anything that constitutes a game.
Both teams from SUNY Broome delegated various aspects of game development to team members, such as one person handling the art and animation of a game with another creating a majority of the code for the game.
Susan Sherwood, executive director of the Center for Technology & Innovation, said that Global Game Jam challenged participants to try something new and hone their skills.
“They looked at the skill sets needed to do games and everybody identified their skills and realized how many art people they have because that’s always the hardest part and the artists picked the rest of the team,” Sherwood said.
One team explored the persistence and determination of an individual attempting to reach home, as they pitted the player against various enemies and obstacles that barred the way in a 2D platformer, which is a side-scrolling genre of video games. Bahl’s team had the player controlling a dog who had to defend his home from intruding neighborhood animals looking for shelter after a storm.
Not only is Global Game Jam about bringing gamers together and collaborating, but it also encourages the exchange and innovation of ideas. Numerous original and breakout games have spawned from the event, such as the video game “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes,” where players work together to defuse a bomb as one reads a defusing instruction manual and the other defuses it. Original ideas like this are paradigms of what the Global Game Jam can produce — unconventional and engaging games that you do not expect from the AAA games-dominated market that we have today.
Robert Lofthouse, chair of the Engineering Science Department at SUNY Broome, said that the event also introduces students to the world of game development as they gain experience in coding, animation, level design and other aspects of game development.
“We think it’s a nice opportunity for students to learn coding and work on code and so we like to be able to sponsor events that are positive and related to academics here on campus,” Lofthouse said.
Several members of each team had experience in other game jams, helping first-timers learn the ins-and-outs of making a game in 48 hours.
“I first got into game jams when I went to my first in college, and I had such fun,” Bahl said. “I figured no matter what, we’re going to have fun with this. I did and I think everyone else had a lot of fun as well.”