UMSL computer science major Matt “Z” Hunt (center) allows his teammate to try out his Oculus Rift goggles, a virtual reality headset used in gaming. The group participated in the 2014 Global Game Jam Jan. 24-26 at UMSL. (Photo by August Jennewein)

After 48-hours in the same building, operating on little sleep and too much caffeine, Matt “Z” Hunt eagerly awaited the fruits of his labor.

Hunt, a freshman computer science major at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, competed in the 2014 Global Game Jam Jan 24-26 at UMSL.

The UMSL ExperienceHosted at UMSL the last three years, the event is a gamer’s dream.

Participants from 480 sites in 73 countries begin Friday evening learning the theme of this year’s game. Then gamers break into teams and begin brainstorming and creating. Most choose to sleep in the corner of the room in between programming and creating code, so as to not loose time or momentum. The second floor of the Social Science & Business Building became not only the hub of creation for 24 new video games, it was also the weekend dining room and bedroom for more than 170 participants.

“It wasn’t bad,” said Hunt, who used a coat as a pillow and a cloak as a blanket. “The floor was pretty uncomfortable, but it was worth the experience.”

That experience is vital, said Dinesh Mirchandani, associate professor of information systems at UMSL and organizer of the UMSL event. He said it’s an exciting experience for all involved.

“The Global Game Jam is a win-win for UMSL, our students and the region,” Mirchandani said. “It gives those people who have no other connection to UMSL a chance to see the university and what we have to offer. It gives our students hands-on experience, a chance to uses their skills in a real-live challenge and the opportunity to network with outstanding companies. And it gives the region a chance at further economic development.

“Two of the games created at the Global Game Jam last year went into production as well as some of the participants this year are from actual companies looking for individuals for internships and possible employment,” he said.

Riot Games, creator of “League of Legends,” was among this year’s participants. Not only were they looking to challenge their employees through the weekend’s event, but they were also looking for those individuals who could add to their company.

“I tell all the gamers to post their resumes on, which is a tech site,” said Elonka Dunin, video game developer with Simutronics Corp. in St. Louis and director of the Global Game Jam. “Many of our companies are checking Dice throughout the weekend. If they see someone who interests them, they check them out and possibly make a connection.”

Hunt, who already had been talking to Riot Games before the Global Game Jam, said the event gave him an opportunity to meet and work with some of the company’s employees.

“This was definitely a chance for me to get to know some of them and work with them,” he said. “Since I want to get into development, this event was a must for me.”

Jen Hatton

Jen Hatton