Global Game Jam - making games in 48 hours

Story: Eevi Korhonen, IMP09 student
The last weekend of January was an interesting one for game-minded students here, because Tampere was hosting one of the jamming sites for Global Game Jam. GGJ is a worldwide event where game developers, professionals and amateurs alike, get together to make games within 48 hours. During this year's event over 900 games were created by almost 4,000 jammers in 39 countries! From the total 28 jammers in Tampere, almost half were Score members (including one IMP).

Global Game Jam games are made based on an annual theme and constraints. This year's theme was deception, and the constraints for our location were fire, wire and lyre. The theme and one or more of the constraints had to be featured in the game somehow. A new addition this year was achievements, which were optional constraints. These achievements were same for every team around the globe, and they included such things as having no text or numbers in the game or using an unconventional controlling device i.e. something other than keyboard, mouse or console controller.

The event itself went very well, even though this was the first time of Global Game Jam was organized in Finland. Handily, the jamming spot was located right next to our school in Demola, which provided the space, internet connection, some computers and, most importantly, a quiet place to crash after many heavy hours of game jamming. The organizers had made some sponsorship deals with local restaurants, so we also had food a-plenty throughout the weekend. Entertainment was never too far away, whether it was fooling around in front of the webcam or listening to the zombie team growling in the mic in an attempt to test out their game.

There were a couple of tech talks before the actual event started. We had Reko Nokkanen, lead designer from Digital Chocolate, giving us tips on how to get a game made in 48 hours. Then there was Juhani Hujala and Niko Korhonen from our very own Score talking about how to make games with Unity3D. We also had a surprise guest speaker, Arto Koistinen from Dicework Games, talking about his own experiences with fast game prototyping.

The participating IMP, yours truly, was part of team that made a game called Grow Up!, an art game about a seedling that tries to grow all the way from the core to the surface of the earth. I worked as a producer, making sure that everyone knew what they were doing and generally trying to get 100% work efficiency out of them (in a nice way).

Global Game Jam is not about competitions, but about good spirit and making new, innovative games. Nevertheless, there were three different awards handed out in Finland: The Best Game, the Best Silverlight Game and the Jammers' choice. Tampere dominated the competitions by grabbing all of the three prices! Best game went to Play Dead 2: Growling of the Dead, the Best Silverlight to Lyre and the Jammers' Choice to Grow Up!.

All in all, the experience of game jamming was very fun and educational. I had the chance to make something new and innovative, while meeting new people who share the same interests. Global Game Jam is not just about making games, but meeting and networking with new people. Students get the additional benefit of having a possibility of getting something into their portfolio or at least a prototype they can develop further.

So, if you like games and would like to try your hand at making them, see you at Global Game Jam 2011!