Global Game Jam connects UCI with OC’s game design community

February 2, 2017

Professor Tanenbaum brought together 130 people who collectively created 20 wave-themed games in 48 hours.

This year’s Global Game Jam (GGJ) was a huge success for UC Irvine and GGJ site organizer Theresa Jean Tanenbaum, assistant professor of informatics at UCI. For 48 hours of game development mayhem from Jan. 20-22, 130 people joined the fun, compared to the roughly 50 participants GGJ had last year. This was the third year Tanenbaum has hosted the event at UC Irvine.

Global Game Jam is an annual event celebrated locally in more than 90 countries. It is known for its radical inclusiveness, encouraging game enthusiasts of all genders, ages, socioeconomic status and industry to gather together, form teams and create an original game over the weekend. UCI teams accomplished the amazing feat of producing 20 games this year during GGJ.

“There is something truly unique and powerful about knowing that thousands of other creative people around the world are also working on games together with you,” said Tanenbaum. “It’s really fun to be even a small part of such a large experience.”

A diverse range of people showed up to this year’s jam, ranging from a troop of Girl Scouts to professional programmers and artists from the game development industry.

“Having a jam site in Irvine has been great for our students, and also for building relationships with the broader game design community in Orange County,” said Tanenbaum. “There are over 60 game studios in the area, and many of our professional participants come to be inspired by the creative environment and to work on the kinds of projects they might not get to make in their day jobs.”

Each year an original theme is revealed for jammers to use when developing their games. This year’s theme was simply “waves.”

Annakaisa Kultima, a GGJ regional organizer from Finland and a member of the committee that considered dozens of candidates before deciding on this year’s theme, spoke about its diverse possibilities for game creators: “We were trying to find a theme that would be inspiring on many levels of game creation. This theme can be used on all levels of game development: code, audio, graphics, gameplay as well as a thematic aspect of a game.”

Global Game Jam was originally a project developed under the International Game Developers Association between 2009-2012. In 2013, the event became independently managed by international nonprofit Global Game Jam Inc., which has “a mission to foster game design and game education through innovative events.”

More than 36,000 jammers in 702 sites across 95 countries created over 7,000 games this year, making this year’s GGJ the biggest game jam in history. Tanenbaum said he was proud to make UCI a part of this global event. He added, “I’m very happy with how things went this year!”

Photos and video from the event can be found online here.