If you walked the DSU sidewalks this past weekend, it was eerily silent. The air was chill, and seemed to blanket the campus in quiet. That is, until you walked into the Science Center. A little (actually….quite large) thing called Global Game Jam took place this past weekend. From the title of the event, one can speculate that it not only took place at DSU, but also across the world.
One participant, former DSU student Chris Leonhardt, said, in short, that Global Game Jam is a “48-hour game creation marathon.” I found out more information from GGJ’s website: This year, Global Game Jam took place from January 20-22. It’s an annual event that takes place the third weekend in January. Each year, a different theme is assigned to creators – this year’s theme was “Waves”. Teams are allowed to interpret the theme in any way they choose. Over 36,000 global game “jammers” (game creators) in 702 locations spanning across 95 countries created over 7,000 games. What do all of those numbers mean? They mean that it was the largest and most expansive Global Game Jam to take place ever!
Mentioned above, Chris Leonhardt was the “head” of his game creation team this year. He was kind enough to give me some details all about GGJ – from the game creation process to the utter tiredness felt by all involved. He told me that at the beginning of the Game Jam, all DSU teams gather to brainstorm. Then, they divide into their respective teams filled with coders, animators and audio personnel. On Chris’s team were 15 other individuals – “a larger number than you see on most teams”, he states. He and his team chose to take a literal approach to the theme – their game allows the player to try to save the whales! It has the respective title of Whale Defense Force.
What exactly when into the making of Whale Defense Force? Chris broke it down for me: “After my team was created and we set up in our room, our first order of business was to flesh out the idea of the game and figure out what we wanted the core concept to be. See, when the games are pitched to everybody at the jam, only a brief synopsis is given. That brief synopsis is usually all that the presenters have even thought about for the game. So, we decided that we wanted the game two feature two key elements: exploration and 90’s cheesiness. From there, we fleshed out the aesthetic theme and narrative of the game, both of which were paramount to expanding other decisions later down the line. Once these were decided, the rest just fell into place. Everyone formed up into separate work divisions. This year our team had four basic divisions: programming, art, sound, and gameplay. When we split into these mini-teams, we all internally decided what it was we needed to do to create the ideas we had for the game. Of course, there was always communication between the teams. The communication we had allowed us to adapt our core concept when we thought of other cool ideas later in the weekend – like when we decided we wanted to have voice acting. On Sunday, we wrapped up everything we could and submitted it.”
What Chris doesn’t mention is nearly every one stayed up most of the time, working on the game in some shape or form. With the constant work, fast food and soda are favorites. The food and packaging debris were quite comical when I walked into the Science Center on the last day of the game.
After game completion, it is then judged by a few DSU game personnel. The judges “play each game that the DSU teams create.” Chris then had the following to add about the judging process: “they try to determine which games made an impact on the Jam. For instance, there was a game created this year called Killer Whale Island that had by far one of the more unique narratives of this year, starring a very muscular-legged man escaping a torrent of water and whale out for blood, while also being helped by another whale who wishes for his love. Because of this, it was mentioned many times for its use of narrative to set itself apart. And while there is an “overall best” category, I believe many people would agree that the true winners of Game Jam are any and everybody who participate.”
I will agree with that: anyone who is willing to work diligently with a team for 48 hours on little sleep to create a game deserves to be commended. If you would like to play any or all of the DSU games that were created this past weekend at GGJ, you may do so here: http://globalgamejam.org/2017/jam-sites/dakota-state-