No Sleep Till Beta

Global Game Jam

 

For 48 hours at the end of January, about 1,600 people spread across 53 cities in 21 countries got together to make more than 300 video games. It was an ultra marathon for geeks, a digital Dakar. No sleep ’til beta. It was the first ever Global Game Jam.

Game jams have become a common social occasion among indie developers. They make a good excuse for solitary coders to meet each other face-to-face for a change, and the tight deadline also acts as motivation to take an idea that’s been sitting on the shelf and finally make it into something playable. The Global Game Jam was an effort to scale that concept up.

“There was a definite sense of comaraderie, and not only with our fellow Toronto participants,” says Rob Holt, one of the organizers of the Toronto jam at Centennial College. “Half of the cities were streaming the event live to the Internet via webcam so we could all watch each other. All the administrators were on a Skype chat together. It was also exciting hearing about all the problems and triumphs other cities were having. One city had a radioactive fire in a neighbouring lab.”

“I was expecting some sort of catastrophic failure,” says Tommy Brett, who put together the event at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. “A PC breaking down, participants losing their work, dangerous weather conditions, the list goes on. However, by the end everyone had produced something worth showing that they had fun making.”

“We decided to host the Ottawa event to bring together game enthusiasts, challenge the young talents and get more people interested in learning about game development,” says Ali Arya, who set up the jam at Carleton University. “Participants had a lot of work but were also enjoying the challenge. It was our first time doing something like this, but overall things went well. We learned from our first experience, and the event made nonparticipants more aware and excited for the next year.”

The weary contributors to the four Canadian jams managed to code up 16 games by the time the clock ran out. Those games and all the others created around the world can be downloaded from the Global Game Jam website at globalgamejam.org.


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