48-Hour Global Game Jam

Gosh the global game jam was fantastic this year! Not only did we have over 100 jam sites, but the jam spread over to 35+ countries from 25 last year. I had the honour of chairing the UBC location in Vancouver this year. With my fantastic team of volunteers, as well as the helpful UBC volunteers, we put on a great site for our participants.

So hold on here – if you haven’t heard of it, the global game jam is an annual event that was started last year by Susan Gold of the International Game Developer’s Association. The idea is to get a bunch of developers in the same area face-to-face and create games in a short, intense game development session: 48 hours to be precise. To make it even better, they are connected via live webcam to other groups of game jammers around the world who are all doing the same thing. With the assistance of industry mentors and some volunteers reminding them to eat and sleep they all work on games based on a theme and some constraints. The theme is the same worldwide, while the constraints varying from timezone to timezone and, sometimes even, location to location.

For example, this year’s theme was: Deception. And the constraints for our time zone was to include at least one of the following: Punk, Monk, or Skunk. Meanwhile another timezone had something like: Snake, Cake, or lake to be included.

We had some great ideas put forward. My favourite from our location was called “Sleuth“. In Sleuth you were either the punk or the detective. The punk tries to disguise himself as a monk and blend in with the other monks while the detective tries to find the punk before time runs out by lifting off the hoods of all the monks.

This was not a competition (no matter how much all of us North Americans seem to try to make it so) but we still sent everyone home with some industry swag from Big Fish games, Radical Entertainment, UBC, BCIT, and other local sponsors of our location.

One of the big reasons I liked this jam site was because it felt like MY jam site. Why? I love board games and it ain’t a Steven-hosted event without some board games involved. During some of the down times for volunteers when they really just needed to keep an eye on things so they don’t get stolen, we pulled out some board games and got some game playing happening as well. It was awesome! We even kept a few of the live feed watchers watching one game of Catan by zooming in the camera close for a while.

MDM 48-Hour Design Jam

This past weekend I volunteered with some fellow alumni of the Masters of Digital Media Program to host a 48-hour Design Jam for the second and third cohorts of our illustrious MDM Program. Based off of the 48-hour Global Game Jam that we had participated in this past January, we challenged the new students to design a game or animation within 48 hours. This was an exciting experience for them to bond over.

It went really well too. While the one person interested in making an animation ended up joining one of the games groups, many games were made and fun was had by all. I had the fortune of helping out one group who wanted to learn a 3D engine in the 48 hours. I taught them the engine I knew was easy to learn in that time frame which is Blender the open source game engine! They not only took to it really quickly, but they also mastered much more of it than even I have. They were really interested in the modelling, while my knowledge lay mostly in Python. It was interesting to watch them come together and make their game so fast. The lesson that warmed my heart at the end was hearing that they had learned to overcome their fear of having to learn something new in such a short time. They felt they could do it again if they wanted to.