Videogame developers of all skill levels, from beginners to professionals — including programmers, artists, and musicians — participated in the Global Game Jam of 2019. This year’s Global Game Jam happened on the weekend of January 25 to January 27.
What Is The Global Game Jam?
For those of you who don’t know, the Global Game Jam (@globalgamejam) is an annual event that happens around the entire world, wherein participants form teams to make videogames in a game jam, which is a hackathon-style setting, but for videogames. This game jam is called the “Global Game Jam”, because there are jam sites in various cities around the world, all making games with the same theme. The themes are discussed and decided by by the Global Game Jam’s “Theme Committee” around two months before the weekend of the game jam.
Last year’s theme was “Transmission”, and this year’s theme was “What Home Means To You”. The themes are intentionally vague, so that participants can interpret them as freely as they want. This results in a wide variety of interpretations and a diverse array of games that can come out with it.
This year, according to Global Game Jam’s statistics, 47,000 jammers made 9,000 games at 860 sites in 113 countries. Aside from that, 10 new countries have taken part for the first time this year: Azerbaijan, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Myanmar, Namibia, and Rwanda.
History Of The Global Game Jam
Since the beginning, Global Game Jam has always been a volunteer-run organization, including its leadership, site organizers, and participants.
The Global Game Jam started when Susan Gold in collaboration with Gorm Lai, Ian Schreiber, and Foaad Khosmood were inspired by the many game jams before it, such as the Indie Game Jam, Ludum Dare, and Nordic Game Jam. In 2008, Global Game Jam became their registered trademark, and was founded. The 1st annual Global Game Jam was held on January 30 to February 1, 2009, with over 1,600 participants in 23 countries, and with 307 games produced.
Initially, Global Game Jam was a project of the International Game Developer’s Association (IGDA) from 2009–2012. But starting with GGJ 2013, Global Game Jam (GGJ) became its own entity, whose founding members are: Zuraida Buter, Dustin Clingman, Elonka Dunin, Susan Gold, Foaad Khosmood, Gorm Lai, Ian Schreiber. Since then, the event is managed by Global Game Jam, Inc., an International non-profit with an IRS 501c3 charitable designation based in San Luis Obispo, California.
Since its humble beginnings, the Global Game Jam has grown such that in 2018, there were 803 sites registered, from 108 countries, with 42,800 registered participants, and 8,606 submitted games.
The Process Of A Typical Global Game Jam
Usually, registration for participants and jam sites starts on the November before the game jam itself. For this year’s game jam, the announcement that registration opened was on November 8, 2018. The people who register the sites as jam site organizers are volunteer as well. Registration is open up to the Friday of the Global Game Jam.
Each jam site would start the event at 5:00pm local time, and open with a keynote, and a reveal of the theme. After that, the participants get to know each other and start to form teams after people pitch their ideas.
Aside from using the theme to make games, participants can also use an optional set of “diversifiers” as inspiration, and at the same time to limit the scope of their games, and to add some extra challenges.
Then after that all the participants work on their games for the entire weekend, until the deadline. Depending on the policy of the jam site, participants can possibly stay overnight to work on their games or they would need to either go home or go somewhere else to work on their games. Teams would need to register their games under the Global Game Jam’s website before the deadline of 5:00pm on Sunday, to be eligible for submission. After the deadline, the different teams present their work to the audience.
The Local Jam Sites In San Francisco, CA
In San Francisco, CA this year, there were 3 jam sites — with Noisebridge returning from last year, and two newcomers: Bay Area Womxn In Games (BAWGames) and Lumos Labs — an increase from last year, where there were only 2 (at Unity Technology’s office on 3rd Street, and at Noisebridge). The one that I am writing about is the one that happened at the local hackerspace, Noisebridge.
The Jam Site At Noisebridge
The jam site at Noisebridge was organized by 2 of the community members of the Noisebridge hackerspace: Bernice Chua (https://www.noisebridge.net/wiki/User:Berni) and Mark Willson (@MarkHWillson). Outside of Noisebridge, Mark Willson is an indie videogame developer creating his own games for his studio Lost Generation Games, and who teaches videogame development; while Bernice Chua is also an indie videogame developer, and teaches videogame development. Since both Bernice and Mark are also videogame developers, they wanted to participate in making a game as well.
This year, Noisebridge collaborated with SF Bay Area Game Jamming Game Design and Playcrafting SF. PlaycraftingSF sponsored the meals for the game jammers, and both “SF Bay Area Game Jamming Game Design” and PlaycraftingSF assisted in promoting the event.
In total, 96 people registered as participants and 13 games were submitted through Noisebridge’s jam site.
A number of artists and animators also joined their ranks.
The various teams all interpreted the theme of “What Home Means To You” in unique and interesting ways.
When these participants pitched their idea, they said that it’s like “Overcooked”, but the players need to cooperate with each other to clean, instead of to cook. So I commented, “You mean overcleaned?” Hence the name “OverCleaned!” was born.
“Super Mover Brothers: The Motion Picture” could either be a single-player or co-op game where the player(s) work for a moving company, and need to move in as much furniture as possible. The way that the characters interact with the objects appears to be physics-based.
“Darkest Sky” is an atmospheric 2D sidescroller, where the player has to find a home despite the dark and the rain.
When “BaseBrawlers: Home Not Safe” gave its presentation, I doubled-over from laughing so hard, because of the humourous narration. This game may not fit the theme very well, but it was the most complete game, and it was fun, and has a “Killer Queens” vibe.
The game “Here” is a really interesting concept, by using only sounds for the gameplay.
“Phone Home” is another interesting sound-only game, but
“Home *BLEEP* Home” is a point-and-click adventure game, about a smart house. But the more you play, the more you get the unnerving feeling that something more is going on.
In “Leaky Roof”, the player needs to rescue items the home from water damage, and the flavor text of each item says something about the player-character’s life.
After the game jam itself has ended, the co-organizers of this site at Noisebridge had a surprise for the participants. They judged the games and gave trophies that were made with the laser cutter and other tools at Noisebridge. The trophies were for:
Diversifier Award [for “Always Room for One More” (ability for an almost infinite number of players to join, sponsored by Origin Access), “Use the Source, Luke” (game must use some kind of version control, sponsored by GitHub), “Language-Independence” (players can understand the game no matter what language they know, sponsored by Valve Software), “Keep it simple” (use as simple a control scheme as possible)] — “OverCleaned!”
Best Story — “Home *BLEEP* Home”
Best Overall Game — “BaseBrawlers: Home Not Safe”
Best Music — “Darkest Sky”
Best Theme Use — “Leaky Roof”
Most Technical — “ripple”
Best Co-op — “Super Mover Brothers: The Motion Picture”
Most Innovative — “Phone Home”
Best Sound Design — “Here”
Most Ambitious — “The Dream”
(Since they were the judges and the event organizers, “Flotsam And Jetsam”, the game of the team that Bernice and Mark belonged to was not included in the judging process.)
You can try the games submitted by the people who registered at Noisebridge here: https://globalgamejam.org/2019/jam-sites/noisebridge/games
Outside of Noisebridge, these are other notable games from Global Game Jam 2019:
Global Game Jam indicated that their Google Analytics showed “Cuddle Up” (by a team in Chile) was the most popular game:
You can play it here: https://globalgamejam.org/2019/games/cuddle
This game was made by students from Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), Brazil, who are studying for their Master’s degree, and they were using the Global Game Jam to conduct research about the behaviour of people who participate in game jams, and the community of videogame developers in general. They participated in at Natal, Brazil: https://globalgamejam.org/2019/games/anthill-sweet-anthill
If you want to try ALL the games made in GGJ 2019, this is your link — random list of GGJ 2019 games: https://globalgamejam.org/2019/games
Why Game Jams?
I mentioned earlier that a group of master’s degree students from Brazil were conducting research on the videogame developer community, using the people who participate in the Global Game Jam as their sample population. From the Global Game Jam in 2018, they found out:
“in our first study we have found that students and hobbyists are more influenced by technical aspects when deciding to participate in game jams. Meanwhile, professional developers are less influenced by these aspects. Also, indie developers are more motivated by social aspects.”
To me, the benefit of a going to a game jam is to meet other people in the community. Especially as someone who is only an indie videogame developer, doing work on one’s own can feel daunting sometimes. But working with other people around, even if they are not working on the same project, can make things feel less lonely, and having the feeling of support from a community.
Many people go to game jams for many different reasons. Some do it to learn more skills, because they can interact with more experienced people. Some do it to make friends and grow their community. Some do it for fun. Some do it for the thrill of the challenge. Others do it to get inspiration and ideas. There are even others who continued working with their team mates after the game jam, and were able to release their games to sell. And others do it for some of those reasons, or all of the above reasons. And still others who may not be interested in participating, go there to watch the events.
And to me, at the end of the day, if people can challenge themselves to do something creative while having fun and making friends, it is worth the preparation of setting up a jam site for the Global Game Jam.
What do you think? Have you participated in any game jams? Would you like to participate in a game jam? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks in advance! ^_^