Global Game Jam

By Ricky Lima - February 8th, 2013

All images borrowed from various TGGJ’ers.

Last weekend I had the privilege of being a part of the Toronto chapter of the Global Game Jam – and I had a blast. Every year organizers around the world pick a weekend to have developers get together to design and prototype a game in the span of three days. The event is meant to encourage creativity and problem-solving in a game development scenario. It forces developers to think in terms of scope and to design games accordingly. It also gives new developers a chance to meet fellow developers and learn from each other. Event organizers Troy Morrissey and Randy Orenstein made sure that the event ran smoothly and that creators had a wonderful collaborative space to work in.

This was my first time ever attending a game jam and I really didn’t know what to expect. I was creating music within a small team of great people, so I was excited to get things going. The first thing that struck me when I entered George Brown College (where the event was hosted) was how warm everyone was. Coming out of a flash snow storm into this friendly environment was awesome. I barely knew anyone there but I was welcomed with open arms, not only by the event staff but other jammers as well. I felt there was a sort of camaraderie based on the knowledge that we were all going to be going through some intense stuff over a couple of days.

When the jam finally started and everyone got to work everything became very quiet. I was amazed at how silent the entire college became. It was as if no one was in the building, but in fact the building was packed full of people intensely working. The level of focus and dedication I witnessed that weekend was outstanding. I almost felt bad recording my guitar because it was so quiet – but I, too had a job to do.

Serious dedication.

Now, I have done music for games before (even games done at jams!), but I was always at home working my magic for these projects. This time was different, and I was a little intimidated seeing what other people were making; but their hard work inspired me to work harder on my music. On Saturday night I had a couple of tracks that I felt were set to go into the game, but after sleeping and reviewing what I had, I realized that everything that I had created up until that point was all wrong. I then spent the entire day on Sunday working like a mad man trying to correct my mistakes.

Music in a game should reflect everything else in the game. It should be the filling between art and game-play, and as it stood, what I originally had was more of a jacket that went over everything instead of seamless blend of all related elements. It’s hard to explain without hearing the original tracks – but just know that what I originally had didn’t work. I think this is at the heart of a jam: pushing hard to make a great product no matter how much work and how little time you have. By the end of Sunday, I felt that my team had produced something that was special and really brought all the elements of the team together flawlessly. The game that we created can be played here. Check it out! I warn you though: the game is hard.

Game Jams produce awesome games like this one.

So I can sit here all day and relate to you my experiences of the Global Game Jam; but it doesn’t really matter what I experienced. What matters is that if you’re a game developer, or aspire to be one-, you really need to participate in a game jam. The community will inspire you and some of their work ethic may even rub off on you. Whether it’s the Global Game Jam, T.O Jam or any of the smaller jams throughout the year, I hope to see you there. I know I’ll be there!

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