The Global Game Jam

There have been a lot of things attributed to game development, but normality probably isn’t one of them. In fact, it’s been scientifically proven that the concepts of “regular” and “game developer” are mutually exclusive, and even addressing someone as “a normal game developer” brings the entire universe that much closer to a divide-by-zero implosion.

Of course, this sacrifice of normality brings about some really interesting and awesome scenarios. Imagine this: you’re locked inside a computer lab for 48 straight hours with several dozen other crazies and the end goal of making a game before your detention time expires. Aside from fellow developers, your only companions are some webcams tracking your work, enough caffeine to poison an elephant and whatever you can bang together to sleep on for an hour or two. Free pizza is abundant, and the frayed psyches of participants are held together by high hopes, amazing concepts and raw grit. This is the ultimate test of man’s endurance and determination.

Caffeine: our shining beacon in the darkness.

The Global Game Jam, which took place over the final weekend of January, was the execution of this very situation. Despite the misery and insanity that the above description implies, it was also surprisingly awesome: grouping so many individuals with such a passion together and asking them to do what they love can be an amazing thing despite the odds, and the promise of prizes and glory just sweetens the deal. On top of that, the “global” part means that people are doing this all over the world at pretty much the same time.

Ten games were produced in the local leg of the Jam at the University of Cape Town, with the competition theme of “Deception”. Additional game constraints and achievements were provided for bonus bragging points, and participants were able to use whatever tools they desired: Flash, Game Maker, PyGame, Unity, Unreal … anything they could get their hands on and bring to the table.

The Game.Dev community sported two entries amongst the local participants: first place went to ~Press Tilda, an intriguing platformer game which relied on “console commands” to manipulate obstacles, destroy enemies and find cunning ways to the level exit.

A herd of wild developers is spotted on the horizon.
A herd of wild developers is spotted on the horizon.

Game.Dev’s other representative game, YouDunnit, took second place at the UCT competition, presenting a causality-based, futuristic murder mystery where the player is trying to establish a suitable alibi for the heinous crimes that they committed.

Third place was awarded to Module, a physics-based machine creator which required players to go head-to-head and carefully manage resources while constructing the ultimate spaceship to destroy their opponent. This project was constructed by a team of six dedicated UCT students.

Prizes included several Take2 vouchers, assorted gifts from sponsors such as Derivco, Afrigraph and UCT, and even an Xbox 360 elite along with a full range of accessories.

If you’re interested in the Global Game Jam, hop into the Game.Dev GGJ discussion thread or visit the site itself for more info. It happens at the same time, same place next year and is a whole whack of fun.

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