Game jamming comes to York

reports on this years Global Game Jam

Photo credit: Joanne Maltby

Photo credit: Joanne Maltby

At first glance, the prospect of spending 48 hours at a computer might not seem an attractive one for many of us. However, last weekend 49 intrepid students did just that, participating in the Global Game Jam: a challenge to develop a playable game in relation to a certain theme in just two days. At 6pm on Friday [23rd] in the Ron Cooke Hub, twelve teams were given the theme, “What do we do now?” and set to work.

Lots of different jams are organised around the country, but we chose to join in with the Global Game Jam, which brought together 25.000 jammers at 514 sites in 77 countries,” said Joanne Maltby, one of the organisers. “Jammers are given the theme at 6pm in their time zone on Friday evening and are sworn to secrecy until Hawaii, the final timezone to start, goes live. Jammers then have until 6pm on Sunday evening to finish and upload their games.”

Game Jam is technically a competition between the various teams, with game developer judges on hand to award the best effort. This year, the winning entry was ‘Kevin’s Adventure in Space and Time’, by Robert Brown (lead programmer), Emma Green and Andrew Thomas (art) and Samuel McNamara (music). Robert described it as “a pixel-art, story-driven, locked-room-esque puzzle game with 6 levels, each with a different puzzle mechanic. The premise is that past, present and future versions of Kevin (the protagonist) travel to various places in order to fix space-time and each version has a different aspect of the puzzle which they can solve, so you have to figure out how to use them to get past the puzzle.”

Despite her team’s victory, Emma seems to speak for the majority of jammers when she talks about the lack of competitive environment: “When Andrew and I decided to go we weren’t even aware there was a prize! We just went to try our hand at something new. I was personally very worried because I have no technical skills whatsoever, but it was so much fun and I would encourage anyone of any ability to take part next year. It’s daunting but so rewarding to have made something that someone can play in just 48 hours. The Jam made me realise potential I didn’t think I had! And the games other people had made blew me away, I couldn’t believe how professional some of them looked in such a short space of time.”

As well as critical acclaim and personal victories, Joanne points out the more tangible utility to be found in experience which is becoming increasingly relevant. “Games have been created at Game Jams which have gone on to win awards, and small games companies seeking to employ people often like candidates to have experience of jamming as it demonstrates the skills needed to work as a developer in a very direct way. As games are not only a massive industry for the UK, but are also increasingly utilised in research and for societal benefit, so gaining experience of creating games opens up new possibilities for our jammers’ futures.”

All the games created at this year’s Game Jam can be found here.

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