Dustin Steinhoff, News Editor
The 2019 St. Louis Global Game Jam took place at the University of Missouri–St. Louis Millennium Student Center from Jan. 25-27. Starting Friday at 5 p.m., participants gathered in the Century Rooms to create a digital or nondigital game within the course of 24 hours.
The event was open to UMSL students and the public alike, with some attendees such as Kirsten Kuykendall traveling from as far as Springfield, Illinois, to participate.
Once the Game Jam kicked off Friday, the secret theme was unveiled to the participants and each group had to incorporate it into their game. The theme of this year’s event was “What does home mean to you?”
Kuykendall and Chris Taylor, both of whom have been to previous Game Jams, were members of a team working to create a point-and-click adventure game where the player controls a puppy or kitten who has just been adopted and is discovering their new home for the first time.
“It’s a journey about finding out what home is,” Kuykendall said. “They are thinking, ‘What is this building? What is this furniture? What is furniture?’ It’s a journey about finding out what this home is.”
Outside of the theme provided to the attendees, attendees are allowed to create any kind of game they please and the game does not even need to be digital.
Another Game Jam veteran, Daniel Nagel, first heard about Game Jam during his time at ITT in 2010. In the years since, he has attended various different Game Jam events. He previously worked on Game Jam projects as a programmer for a point-and-click adventure game and a platformer, as an art designer creating concept art for a 3D Oculus Rift game and he even helped create a board game.
Participants such as Sarah Brill, a video game design major at Webster University, find these events useful for providing practical experience with their career field.
“I thought it would be a good idea to get some experience making a full game instead of just working on parts of one,” Brill said.
The event is not just for programmers, either. When crafting a game, many different skills are required. A number of Game Jam participants were busy working on concept art for the backgrounds and characters of the game while others worked on the sound design and music of the game.
Brill previously attended a Game Jam last year, where she worked on the art design portion of the game. This time around, she decided to take a crack at the programming side of things.
The games created at Game Jams can also find life after the event has finished. At the last Arcade Game Jam that Taylor attended, he worked on a game called “Nanotherapy,” which can now be found on display at the St. Louis Science Center.
While looking at the Century Rooms filled with groups of people running programs on their laptops, computer towers and hard drives may give the impression that this is an event that only serious game programmers can participate in, the attendees are adamant that this could not be farther from the case. Those without any video game production knowledge can work on creating a physical game, such as a board game or card game, while others join groups of people that may have more experience and are able to show them the ropes.
“There are still a lot of the same people coming back each year, but every year I also seem more and more unfamiliar faces,” Taylor said. “For two of our people, this is their first Game Jam and their first time making a game. I always try and work with someone who is new every year.”
Another barrier that some may believe could exclude them from the event is their age, however that does not seem to be a problem for any attendees either. A number of participants were children, helping their parents create both digital and nondigital games. In fact, Taylor described his first experience at a Game Jam where an 8-year-old handled the sound design for their game.
“At Game Jams you’re working with people as young as an 8-year-old and people as old as my dad,” Taylor said.
With the Game Jam tasking participants with creating an entire game over the course of a single weekend, many participants opt to stay at the event for its duration. Some decide to do so in order to create their ideal game, some do so to avoid driving back and forth, while some simply enjoy the experience.
“I do like to stay because of the experience; staying here for the weekend is different. It’s a break from the regular life,” Nagel said. “It’s a great way to be creative when you may not always get the chance to do so.”