Global Game Jam 2015 Recap

by Alexius Gandy, Senior BSBAGlobal Game Jam 2015
We have all been there: caught between a rock and a hard place.  When life presents us with challenges, how we face them often determines whether we go to the next level or not.  Sound familiar?  Which is what the sixth annual Global Game Jam (GGJ) captured in its’ theme this year: “What do we do now?”  The Global Game Jam is not a competition, its participants can range in age and technical skills and enthusiasm. You can see GGJ’s historyon their website.  Unlike hackathons, GGJ was a forum where people of varying competencies from music composer to coding aficionados were able to collaborate, create, and complete a project from scratch in 48 hours.  You may view and play the games produced this year.  The event organizers including, the University of Missouri St. Louis, did a phenomenal job acquiring sponsorship and hosting this event.
I participated in the group “Island Escape”, which was a survival game that gives players options in order to escape a tsunami.  The player must collect three items (boat, fuel and a motor) to escape.  My group was made of two students, myself and Joey, who worked together to program the game, and Shawn and Vihar, who were professional artists.  All four of us were the game’s designers.  Most of us had never participated in the Global Game Jam.  It was Vihar’s second time attending, but first time participating.  With this being our first time participating, we used the open source software called GameMaker and had to spend time learning the language (GML) through YouTube tutorials and immediately placing them into action.  Vihar and Shawn were responsible for the images that you see in the game.  They also added the music featured in the game.  Not all of the games had to be digital, some of the games were card games and others were board games.  Because of the nature of the gaming atmosphere, we were encouraged to test other groups’ games as well as have other participants try our game.  I ran into fellow student, Jacob Taylor, while walking around and game-testing.  He and his group had created a card game, called CAPTAIN!!! (yes, they yelled it at the final presentation and insisted on the three exclamation marks).  Other UMSL students were present and served as both hosts and participants, which helped the make the campus’ visitors feel welcome.
It was an overall, excellent opportunity to connect with people who were passionate and creative.  There will be a feedback session at Riot Games St. Louis on February 9th where participants can contribute to making next years’ GGJ even better.  Individuals interested in trying the games that were made throughout the world or the ones made on the UMSL site are more than welcome.