By Michael plumb, Advertising Director
Kat Riddler, Editor-In-Chief
Have you ever wanted to create a video game, tabletop game, or any other activity but did not have the resources or time? The Global Game Jam (GGJ) brings those interested in creating games together in one place with the sole purpose of creating a game over a 48-hour period. Ideally, teams are three to five people but some groups may be larger.
The GGJ was held from Jan. 20 through 22 at the University of Missouri–St. Louis by the Information Systems Programming Club (ISPC). The weekend event kicked off in room 222 of the Social Sciences & Business Building (SSB) at 4:30 p.m. with people registering and forming groups for the weekend. The event ran through Sunday at 7 p.m. with the deadline for members to submit their game at 3 p.m. and demo their game and others afterwards. Spillover rooms for meals and sleep were provided. The opening and closing ceremonies took place in the auditorium and room 118 SSB.
The free, annual event allows participants to design and create digital and nondigital games over the course of the 48-hour period. Participants are expected to bring their own equipment while UMSL provides internet, some access to scanners and printers and access to a Tobii eye tracker. The games must follow a secret theme announced at the beginning of the event. This year’s theme was waves. Previous themes have been deception, extinction, and ritual.
Dinesh Mirchandani, chair of the information systems department in the College of Business Administration, helped organize and run the event at UMSL. Mirchandani said, “The main reason we have it here is because it is home for UMSL students. They can’t go downtown or somewhere unfamiliar. They know this is their home. I want more students to participate.”
Mohamed Langi, senior, information systems, and president of ISPC, said that since the event has been held at UMSL for six years, the planning has become a little easier. Langi said, “Not only do you learn a lot [at GGJ], but you also get to put it on your resume. This is a businesslike environment. You have 48 hours to meet one goal and you have to work with a team. It doesn’t have to be fully working, but it does have to be presentable. It is like a hackathon.”
ISPC organized and provided the logistical space at UMSL for the event. Corporate sponsors like Nvidia and Riot Games provided a classroom in SSB transformed into a hospitality room that included food, beverages, and couches for relaxing all throughout the event. Meals were provided by Pointer’s Pizza, Panera Bread, Goodcents Deli, Hodak’s, Strange Donuts and Domino’s Pizza.
The GGJ has been organized by the International Game Developers Association since 2009, and events like the GGJ take place all over the world. GGJ is based in California with locations in over 90 countries. Sponsors of the event include Tobii, Unity, Facebook, Intel, Riot Games, Nvidia, and more. According to the GGJ website, the 2016 GGJ had over 600 locations in 93 countries create 6,866 games in one weekend.
The keynote speakers of GGJ this year were the creative team behind Extra Credits (formally,The Escapist). In 2008, videos created by artist Daniel Floyd and designer James Portnow discussed game design and culture. Extra Credits’ pre-filmed keynote highlighted some of the expectations for the event. The narrator from Extra Credits said, “This is going to be a glorious weekend. Forty-eight hours of very little sleep, odor of the people around you, and staring into screen. Seriously, this is going to be a glorious weekend. Rarely do you get to create unfettered.”
The narrator continued, “Note that it is not just about this weekend. All of this is just a jumping off point. The people you’ll meet here, the ideas you’ll discover, and the things you’ll learn will carry with you long after you limp exhaustingly [sic] out of those doors.”
At each GGJ site, participants come together to develop ideas, form small groups, create new innovative games, and present them to their peers and the global community. Teams that have participated at UMSL in previous years have gone on to create startup companies and attracted the attention of the funding and gaming communities like Butterscotch Shenanigans who participated in UMSL’s first GGJ and later formed their company. One of the three brothers, Sam Coster, spoke at the opening ceremony this year.
Wes Ehrlichman was the event’s organizer this year. Ehrlichman and others in the community volunteer to organize the event. Ehrlichman said, “[GGJ] isn’t really owned by me, it’s owned by the community.” He encourages the community to participate in this jam or others during the year. Ehrlichman said, “The real resource you really need is time.”
Follow the St. Louis Game Jam @stlgamejam. Free development software and other resources are located at globalgamejam.org/jammer-resources. Information about the local jammers at stlgamejam.com. Games created at UMSL’s GGJ and others can also be found on the website.