As chief organiser Brian McDonald pressed play on the audio file you could see that everyone in the room wasn’t paying full attention. Only as the regular, pumping, sound of a heart-beat was heard throughout the room did the jammers taking place realise that this was it, this was the theme. Nothing added, nothing taken away, the heart running at the average beats per minute (at least one of us checked). Once played again the game-was-afoot and the participants, in this 5th Global Game Jam, made their way to the main hall to form teams, discuss strategies and try and decide what to make of the theme.
The Global Game Jam gives participants 48 hours to design and build a game around a certain theme. It’s up to those involved to form a team, from the mix of industry regulars, students and bedroom coders, consider the theme and then use that 48 hours to create and realise the best product they can make with their joint resources. The, “truth of the pudding”, being the end product; with the judges considering elements like concept, design, story, art, gameplay, music, programming and stability.
This year the Scottish Game Jam is based across three sites; with Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow participating. Even with the Scottish weather playing a part in attendance, more people than last year are taking part. Of course more venues reduce some of the cross pollination that smaller jams provide, as it’s always easier to attend your home city than travel to somewhere more remote. Many people still travelled further afield to get to the venues, but it is worthy to note that the Scottish games community is so strong, that we can hold three successful events within an hour of each other, with jammers eager to compete.
Returning to the theme of this years Global Game Jam we have another year where the organisers have pushed the boundaries. Last year we had a picture of a snake eating its tail, people considering lots of possibilities when making their game, from new versions of the classic “Snake” to considering the deeper meaning behind the picture. If a picture tells a thousand words then what does a sound do?
Thoughts of love and kraken’s were the first thing to come to my mind. Someone in the audience had already suggested dub step, and it was a surprise that none of the teams in the venue went on to utilise such an easy concept – were they really wanting to make it harder for themselves? When considering the concept the majority of teams had gone for body infection – where the heart needs to be maintained in some way – or a haunted house scenario – with the heartbeat increasing as the denizen approaches. What was nice to see was each had used a slightly different take on these familiar themes leaving the judges to decide which game-play mechanic is cleverest.
Of course a couple of far more unique scenarios were being created too. Teams from previous years, who had bitten off more than they could chew, were trying far simpler concepts – concentrating on adding one or two of the Global Game Jam diversifiers to the mix – and other teams, who usually leapt from the blocks, found that their excellent concept was somewhat scuppered by the technology around them and localisation.
Although my kraken idea fits loosely into the haunted house scenario I was more surprised that no-one decided to make a game about love. Perhaps we’re all just far too dour in Scotland, or the heavy sleet outside was affecting our mood. Some of the teams, when asked, said that they found the sound of the heartbeat oppressive and there is always the pressure of the ticking clock to consider, perhaps love is a harder concept to gamify.
So we’re still in the first 24 hours with everything to play for. Its looking good for all of the nineteen teams in Glasgow to have a working competed project but, as one team member just intimated, with a smile; the first hours have gone really well, this is the point where everything goes wrong. And yes: A good dose of gallows humour helps too.
I’ll be back, to discuss the diversifiers, theme and progress the teams have made later.
The live feeds for all the Scottish Game Jam sites can be found here: http://www.scottishgamesjam.com/live-stream-glasgow/