Global Game Jam Spurs Inspiration and Connectivity

February 26, 2015

Informatics Professor Theresa Jean Tanenbaum brings the world’s largest game-creation event to UCI, producing seven games in 48 hours.

By Courtney Hamilton

Global Game Jam 2015

ICS has seen many iterations of the game and app “jam” franchise, where participants build a game or app from nothing in a short period of time, but this year game jam went global. From Jan. 23-25, 45 Orange County participants joined an estimated 21,000 people across 78 countries participating in Global Game Jam 2015 (GGJ). Hosted at Donald Bren Hall, the Orange County GGJ site contributed seven games to a global total of more than 5,000 games created during the 48-hour period.

According to the website, GGJ “is the world’s largest game jam event (game creation) taking place around the world at physical locations. … The weekend stirs a global creative buzz in games, while at the same time exploring the process of development, be it programming, iterative design, narrative exploration or artistic expression.”

Sponsored by the UC Irvine Institute for Virtual Environments and Computer Games (IVECG) and Snail Games USA, the Orange County site boasted an ICS student majority, with a few local game developers and students from surrounding colleges. Teams composed games around a “What do we do now?” theme, with many interpreting the theme as an opportunity to confront players with a predicament.

One such example was “Vulner’s Ability,” created by Orange County site participants Willis Berrios, Eric Chou, Rio Jones, Shintaro Takechi, Joseph Than and Grant Walker. The game, a “choose-your-own-adventure” branching story structured around moral choices, challenged players with unexpected consequences for their actions.

30 Seconds,” created by Louis Orleans, Michelle Tjoa, Mathew Cha, Juston Lin, Matthew Corrente and Calvin Tham, leaves players trying to solve puzzles while uncontrollably teleporting between three locations in a virtual reality environment. All games from GGJ past and present are available at GGJ’s open-source repository.

UCI assistant professor of informatics Theresa Jean Tanenbaum, a key organizer for the Orange County GGJ site, appreciated the opportunity to connect with local and global developers, as well as showcase some of the work coming out of the UC Irvine Transformative Play Lab. “I had many people approach me over the course of the event and thank me for bringing the GGJ to Irvine, and for bringing this group together,” she said.

With most global sites streaming their activity on the GGJ website, participants were able to cycle through each other’s progress. “It creates this sense of connection that you don’t get at a local game jam, and it changes how people think about their development in interesting ways,” said Tanenbaum. “There was something profoundly inspiring about sitting in the middle of a room filled with creative and enthusiastic people working really hard on a very specific problem and knowing that there were over 20,000 other people all over the world doing the same thing.”