Making a game is a daunting task. You can spend years designing and building a game, ironing out every kink that may present itself, but this need not be the only way. If your passion burns like a skin-tight aerobics costume, you could try your hand at making a game in a couple of days, and that’s what Global Game Jam is all about. Where normal game development rewards dedication, game jams are a place for experimentation and creative flourishes to take over. It’s a manic time, but just like every other year, I came out the other side with a grin on my face.
For everyone who hasn’t been doused with a good bit of jam in their lives, let’s fix you. A game jam is an event where people come together to try and build games based around a theme. While the GGJ is arguably the biggest jam around, there are plenty of others like Ludum Dare or Indie Game Jam (but trust me, there are heaps). It’s a way of meeting new people, developing skills and coming up with ridiculous ideas that end up being enjoyable games.
I’ve typically gone into game jams either blind or with a desire to learn something. This year, I was given a goal by one of my friends to create a tabletop game of deception. Well, buddy, I’ve got good news for you. I didn’t even come remotely close to making that game, but this was for the best. Immediately after watching the introductory keynote and receiving the all-too-similar-to-last-year-but-no-one-will-admit-it theme (Transmission), I met up with a self-proclaimed dumb-smart zesty gentleman and had to team up. As an avid lover of citrus, the magic of game jam had revealed itself to me in the form of a bearded genius.
Despite looking like your average Viking in a poncho, turns out this man had the imagination and sensibilities of a pro. Where I’d get stuck, he’d come up with something, and we would bounce off one another like a couple of pugs in a front load washing machine. The nice thing was that none of the other groups were outright dismissing our ideas without seeing a proof of concept. Just because we were raving on like madmen about racing sperm against one another didn’t mean it would be a failure, and the atmosphere reflected that. It probably helped that everyone was focused on getting things done, and in a world where procrastination is hard to avoid, it was nice to see.
Anyone who’s tried and failed to make a game has probably succumbed to the malaise of demotivation. You don’t approach personal projects as work, so you shunt it to the side in favour of more immediate gratification, but game jams don’t work that way. Everyone at the venue wanted to tackle their ideas to the fullest they could, and while they were tempered by reasonable expectations, their dedication to their projects rarely faltered. It’s a great vibe that fills the room, knowing that everyone is working hard on their games instead of sleeping correctly. I don’t condone staying up until you crash, but let’s take a look at a few of the games that came out of such a manic work ethic.
It blows my mind how polished some of the games that come out of game jams are. Rectifier is a stunning looking physics puzzler that is the result of…not sleeping. While the puzzle elements aren’t the greatest thing in the world, you can tell that the people working on the game knew what they were doing. It’s just a damn good game for something made in 48 hours, and it’s a testament to what can be achieved in such a small timeframe.
Check it out here: https://globalgamejam.org/2018/games/rectifier
Game jams allow devs to try out nifty ideas, and nu//void is a perfect example of this in action. You are trapped in a strange labyrinth that exists in one of two dimensions. Click your fingers, all the whites become blacks and vice versa, thus revealing hidden doors, floors and switches. As much as I wish it wasn’t made in the frikkin’ Doom engine (and I don’t mean the new one), it’s a cool idea executed well enough that it deserves a play.
Check it out here: https://globalgamejam.org/2018/games/nuvoid
Major League Terablast
Keeping a game simple but satisfying is a delicate balance. Terablast nails this balance with a core mechanic executed to near perfection. The idea is that you can shoot out a small ball and teleport to it on command. When you teleport, the ball explodes, possibly taking your opponents with it. Last man standing wins, and that’s pretty much the whole game. It’s a devilishly enjoyable little game that I could very well see turning into something greater.
Check it out here: https://globalgamejam.org/2018/games/major-league-teleblast-0
[Apparently the executable file doesn’t work, so, just pray that it gets updated and you can actually play the game for yourself!]
Pitched as “an excuse to make pretty music,” Luna Corda struck me as a game with huge potential. You are transmitting data from a radio tower, and you draw lines between the stars to bounce your data packets to the moon. It’s a bit like a drawing constellations to change your data’s direction, and it just… Works. It’s not the most impressive game around, but hot damn if I didn’t get a kick out of it!
Check it out here: https://globalgamejam.org/2018/games/luna-corda
With the computers packed up and aircon firmly turned off, another year of GGJ ended. It was great to see so much creativity in one space, not to mention the camaraderie that emerged from a shared deadline. Let’s Make Games and SAE were well organised and supplied a great venue, as usual, and they were more than willing to accommodate those without computers. I wouldn’t keep going to these jams if I didn’t keep enjoying them, so if you’re at all interested in giving it a go, come next year!
If you’d like to try some of the games made at the jam for yourself, there will be an After The Jam event at the Nostalgia Box on the 10th of Feb. More details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/551041711927862/