The Global Game Jam celebrated its 10th birthday this year with a total of 803 different sites around the world all hosting an event. It encourages people of all kinds to come together and spend a frantic weekend working with others to create games based on a particular theme. This year’s event ran from 4pm -10pm on the Friday, 9am-10pm on Saturday and finished off with a 9am-5pm stretch on the Sunday, with the deadline for finishing games being at 3pm. The final day ended with a communal showing-off of all the games, giving everyone a chance to display what they’d created.
If that sounds great, it’s because it’s a great idea. It was slightly less good of an idea for me to contract flu and miss the first day and a half, then forget my notebook when attending the final afternoon. Slightly. Despite only managing to attend the second half of the final day, I saw more than enough to convince me that attending would be a fantastic experience for anyone in the local games industry, especially those towards the beginning of their careers.
Eventually I managed to find the right room and arm myself with a few sheets of A4 and a grey felt tip colouring pen I found. I was given a tour around each room where people were frantically developing to meet the deadline, which was three hours away when I arrived. Despite the stresses of needing to be finished so soon, many of the developers there still managed to find a few minutes to talk to me. There were people taking part with all sorts of different levels of experience, from first year games design and development students to some members of the team of developers that won last year’s Transfuzer competition; everyone was welcome (and will of course be welcome next year too!).
You can read more about Transfuzer in Rockape’s recent article here:
The theme this year was “Transmission”, which was interpreted in a variety of creative and inventive ways, including games about transmitting vampirism, directing the live transmission of a Truman Show-esque TV show and transmitting/redirecting beams of light to solve puzzles. One VR bank heist game especially caught my attention. In it, three players each got to use one piece of equipment to try to break into a vault; one player had earphones they could use to hear tones linking to a keypad, another player had the headset they could use to see the keypad and the third had the controllers which could press the numbers on this keypad. Communicating between each other while only having one third of the entire picture yourself made it hectic but hilarious and it would make a fantastic party game. Innovation like this and the creativity every single team showed in interpreting the theme in a unique and interesting way made the final presentation at the end a barrel of laughs.
That laughter shared amongst everyone involved at the end helped me understand the vibe of the event much more clearly; even though it was hard work, the entire affair was absolutely a passion project. Every single person there was taking part in their own time because they wanted to be there and because they enjoyed it.. It was a learning and networking opportunity for the developers too, but nobody that attended the jam seemed to have done so for any other reason than a passion for developing video games. Everyone was welcome and encouraged to have a good time among their peers.
The camaraderie and inclusivity were the stand out traits for me. Some people had come from further away and were just taking their first steps into games development. Others were local students trying to improve themselves and get immersed in their industry. A few were graduates from the University of South Wales (which hosted the event in their Atrium Campus) and some of the organisers had been attending the Cardiff event for years; during the jam, all of them were on a level playing field. The room was filled not with cliques of experienced and inexperienced developers, but with like-minded people working alongside each other to make games over a weekend.
That simplicity is why anyone with a passing interest in games development, be it as a designer, programmer, artist, audio technician or just about any other niche will find spending a weekend in a game jam a wholly fulfilling experience. Especially if you can manage to be there for all of it!
Head over to the Global Game Jam website for more information. You can see a complete list of the games created around the world or specifically the games made in Cardiff, download and play them! To keep up to date about 2019 dates follow the Global Game Jam on Twitter.