Go time for game jammers

Creating a game often takes months or even years. But for one weekend each year, thousands of people from dozens of countries condense the process into 48-hours.

Global Game Jam gives teams of game development enthusiasts the chance to make short, but memorable video games, board games, and card games based on a common theme. Last month, three Northeastern entities—the Playable Innovative Technologies Lab, the Center for the Arts, and the Digital Media Commons—hosted the 2015 Boston Global Game Jam, whose theme was “What Do We Do Now?”

Event organizer Casper Harteveld, an assistant professor of game design in the College of Arts, Media and Design, noted that 169 people participated in the Boston Jam, creating 33 games. Worldwide, 28,872 people in 78 countries created 5,426 games.

Here, Northeastern student and faculty “jammers” discuss their Global Game Jam experiences.

Everything is Fine

First-time jammer Amanda Winfield, AMD’17, initially learned about Global Game Jam at Northeastern’s Game Demo Day, where students showcased games they had made at last year’s event.

“I’m an aspiring game artist and animator, so spending 48 hours making a game sounded great,” Winfield explained. “But spending 48 hours straight making a game with little sleep sounded daunting.”

Her team created Everything is Fine, a video game in which the player controls an astronaut who has landed on the moon just as Earth is being destroyed. The astronaut goes about his days thinking he’s the last person on Earth, and the goal of the game is to survive the supposed predicament, both physically and mentally.

“I think the most surprising moment of the game jam was when I realized I was still in the library at 4 a.m. and so was most of my group,” she said. “The most exciting moment was seeing our game come together.”

What do Wii Do Now?

Associate professor of game design Celia Pearce has served as a judge at past Global Game Jams but decided to work as a jammer this time around.

“I’ve never done it before and I wanted to have the experience from the participants’ viewpoint,” explained Pearce, a world leading expert on virtual worlds and multiplayer gaming. “I also got involved with a project I really like and am hoping our team will continue developing it.”

Her team’s project is called What do Wii Do Now?, which Pearce said was proposed by Mark Trueblood, AMD’16. In each level of the game, the player has to perform a specific task with the Wii remote. In one level, the user has to shake—and then open—a soda can. In another, he has to navigate a maze in order to find his fellow players.

“Game jams are always exciting, and it’s fun to see what people come up with,” Pearce said. “I also just love the process of designing games.”

We Need To Talk

Jennifer Tella, AMD’15, and Dan Jackson, executive director of the NULawLab, teamed up to create a video game called We Need To Talk. In their game, the user controls a marriage counselor who is working with a superhero duo that wants advice on how to end their romantic relationship while maintaining their superhero partnership.

“I’m not a gamer,” said Jackson, who was participating in his first Global Game Jam. “But the way the jam was organized—from start to finish—allows anyone to become a contributing part of a team.”

Tella, who was participating in her third Global Game Jam, noted that the experience gives gamers like her the opportunity to try new things. “It’s like a fun sized candy bar compared to the daunting king size that a full game project can turn into,” she said. “You get all the best parts without having to worry as much about the long-term side effects.”