Global Game Jam 2018 Expands Reach

February 1, 2018

Global Game Jam (GGJ) celebrated its 10th anniversary with triple-digit success in terms of its global reach, with 109 countries participating in the 48-hour gaming event, up from 95 in 2017. Over the weekend, 42,790 jammers combined creativity and technology at 804 sites to produce 8,575 new games, some which were developed here at UCI. Now in its fourth year, the UCI GGJ site continues to grow as well, attracting approximately 150 people this year, up from 130 last year.

Collaborating with the Community

“The weekend was definitely a success,” says Informatics Professor Theresa Jean Tanenbaum, the site organizer. To ensure the strong turnout, Tanenbaum collaborated with UCI’s Video Game Development Club (VGDC), UCI IlluminationsiThrive Games and the Orange County Chapter of the International Game Development Association (IGDA-OC). The collaboration paid off at 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 26, when GGJ revealed it’s 2018 “Transmission” theme and the jammers enthusiastically got to work (see photos here). By Sunday evening, they had developed 27 new games, all open access.

Transmitting Fun and Kindness

A few of those games have a “play now” option that doesn’t require a download, such as “Lost in Transmission,” a puzzle platformer where the player alternates control between two characters to navigate through wreckage and find a way home. This game actually straddles two themes, taking third place in the competition sponsored by iThrive Games. The company, which aims to foster “teen thriving” through gameplay, awarded prizes for the top three games meeting its own “choosing kindness” theme. Coming in second place, “Electroline” has players guide a robot though electric transmissions, and first-place winner “ElecTRIO” is a collaborative game focused on tangled wires working together to end a blackout.

The other two online-accessible games were created in the new “all-ages” site, where kids and their parents can jam together. Ten jammers, age 7 to 13, worked with site organizer Marie Tsaasan, an Informatics Ph.D. student, and UCI alumnus Jaime Brown, to create the two games. The first, “Voyager 1,” involves sending signals to Earth to keep the planet from exploding as alien ships approach. The second is the NashTae Soccer Game, developed by eight-year old Nashford and seven-year old Tae.

Exceeding Expectations

Yet these young jammers weren’t the only GGJ rookies this year. “A lot of our participants had never done a jam like this before, and many had never made games,” says Tanenbaum. Such inexperience didn’t seem to stop anyone from imagining — and realizing — the possibilities.

“My favorite part of the jam is watching people surprise themselves,” says Tanenbaum. “The games that they end up making are almost always better than what they expected, which is really exciting for me as an educator!”

— Shani Murray