Five complete strangers sit together on the 11th floor of the EV building making small talk.
Introducing themselves as 3D artists, designers and programmers, they try to get to know each other as fast as possible. Over the next 48 hours, they’ll be creating entire video games together in the Global Game Jam, a two-day event which took place across the world last weekend.
A game jam challenges amateurs and professionals alike to design and build fully functional video games in a short period of time. With over 11,000 jammers in 48 participating countries, the International Game Developers Association’s (IGDA) Global Game Jam is the largest event of its kind. The MTL Game Jam saw well over 100 participants frantically designing and coding a total of 21 different games across three downtown sites.
“It’s like a giant excuse to make games,” said Stéphanie Bouchard, a computation arts student, co-organizer of Concordia’s game jam site, and a member of IGDA Concordia.
Sagar Patel founded IGDA Concordia in September. He decided to bring the Global Game Jam to the university after attending and thoroughly enjoying a similar event the year before.
The Global Game Jam’s rules are consistent from country to country: at 5 p.m. on Jan. 27, each site was shown a presentation featuring keynote speeches from IGDA’s executive director Gordon Bellamy and gaming industry giants including The Sims game designer Will Wright. Organizers then revealed the theme meant to guide jammers in their game designs.
Last year’s theme was extinction. This year, jammers were presented with the image of an ouroboros, a symbol of infinity represented by a snake swallowing its own tail in a circle.
The finished products varied in design, creativity and difficulty. “Git outta mah van yo’ stoopid snake!” is simple but insanely addictive. The goal of this game is to roll a snake down a hill. The tricky bit is trying to maintain momentum by shrinking and jumping the circular serpent at just the right moments.
Another creation, “Snakes on a Train,” is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: players control a Samuel L. Jackson-esque character in this side-scrolling game, dodging a large amount of snakes on a passenger train.
At Concordia, the big reveal was followed by two hours of brainstorming before grouping them up. “That way you get people who are passionate about what they’re going to be making over the next 48 hours,” explained Patel.
By 3 p.m. on Sunday, the finished games needed to be uploaded and made available online on the Global Game Jam website. Judges critiqued the games at all three MTL Game Jam sites, giving feedback to the teams and selecting one submission per site to be featured at Demo Night, an IGDA Montreal event showcasing local work-in-progress games. Rather than formal awards, prizes donated by sponsors were raffled off.
Bouchard said game jams are about passion rather than competition, giving people who love gaming but aren’t working in the industry the opportunity to create, learn and network.
“It’s an intrinsic motivation,” she explained. “People do this because they want to, because it gives them a sense of reward.”
Concordia’s Technoculture, Art and Games research centre (TAG), also collaborated in organizing the event, said Patel.
“Games are the culture of our time,” said Lynn Hughes, associate director and co-founder of TAG. “You can’t have an arts school that pretends they’re not there.”
All of the games from the 2012 MTL Game Jam can be downloaded for free at http://globalgamejam.org/og/games/17755/list.