Georgia (Sep 29, 2015) —
Aspiring video game developers had less than 48 hours to form teams, create a strategy and develop a thematic video game as part of the annual event.
Instead of a gaming competition, where students play video games against each other, this is a game competition in which students collaborate to build new video games from scratch. How teams do that is entirely up to them.
“There is no wrong way to game jam,” said Jon Preston, professor of gaming and faculty executive assistant to the president, at the event’s opening on Friday. “This is an exploratory weekend to expand your skills, hone your craft, explore and meet new friends.”
More than 170 individuals, including KSU students, gaming professionals and artists, joined the University’s 14th Game Jam. With a $6 billion video gaming industry in the U.S., KSU offers one of the nation’s only four-year computer game design and development degree programs, preparing students for careers in this niche market.
Game Jam participants ranged from first-timers with little coding or design experience, to alumni who have been attending Game Jams for years.
“There is such a mix of talent,” said Preston. “We want students to meet others with different knowledge, but also to grow their network of colleagues for the future.”
As Kennesaw State’s first Game Jam following consolidation with Southern Polytechnic State University, the event is now a collaborative effort between the College of Computing and Software Engineering and the College of the Arts, Preston said.
Senior graphic design major Lauren Mayo was invited to Game Jam by another student familiar with her artistic talent. Some programmers, with little music or art experience, turned to fellow artists to enhance their digital illustrations and help with composing and audio.
“Visually, I can add ideas about characters, settings and plot points, and how that might be designed,” Mayo said about her first Game Jam experience.
Teams worked around the clock, taking turns to eat, sleep and improve upon their creation during the two-day competition. Centered on the theme, “Sum of our parts,” faculty organizers withheld the theme until opening ceremonies so everyone started on a level playing field.
Teams of one, to as many as 10 members, strategized, organized and planned, before the programming and designing began later in the night.
“Nailing the theme is the most important aspect,” said Joshua Williams, vice president of KSU’s Game Design and Development Club. “It’s very ambiguous, and we have to define that in our own words for our team.”
Williams’ eight-member team, Simply Dapper Studios, defined that by creating “The Typhon Trials,” in which an infantile chimera undergoes lab trials but survives each trial by using an array of animal parts that enable unique abilities.
The 24 participating teams created diverse games involving combat systems, mazes and stealth immersion. With little sleep and lots of hydration, participants tackled the immense task with excitement, but it was the thrill of competition and professional camaraderie that drove many to enter.
Josh Skelton, a 2014 game design and development graduate who participated in eight Game Jams while a student, said his favorite part was the camaraderie with other developers and having fun by solving problems together.
“These jams have helped instill confidence in myself. So today, when I am tasked with a new project that I have no clue how to begin, I think back on the jams,” said Skelton, an interactive media developer within the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Educational Resources at the University of Georgia. “Jams start with the developers having no idea how to begin, but yet we persevere, solve problems, and make some cool and interesting things. The same goes in the real world, too.”
In the end, seven teams earned passes to the Southern Interactive Entertainment and Games Expo (SIEGE) to showcase their games to more than 1,000 industry attendees.
-Tiffany Capuano; photos by David Caselli
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.