Different kind of jam session

Winnipeg developers take part in 48-hour game-creation event

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BY noon on Saturday, most developers at the Winnipeg Game Jam had seen enough bytes and were ready for bites. Breakfast was late, and hungry developers are not happy ones.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/07/2014 (3106 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

BY noon on Saturday, most developers at the Winnipeg Game Jam had seen enough bytes and were ready for bites. Breakfast was late, and hungry developers are not happy ones.

Roughly 70 coders, designers, musicians and other professionals took part in a 48-hour session at the ACI Co-Working space.

Over the next two days, they have to come up with and finish one idea related to a game. It could be a game, a song for a game, a narrative or something completely different, but it has to be finished and presentable by Sunday evening.

Trevor Hagan / Winnipeg Free Press Anthony Dorge is one of more than 70 game developers participating in a Game Jam at ACI on McDermot Avenue, where they have 48 hours to bring their preliminary game ideas to life.

Throughout the day, the developers huddled into cubicles, rooms and upstairs on tables in a hall. Some coded on laptops, others sketched on paper, and some tried to project a hologram into a glass pyramid.

Most popular video games take millions of dollars and years to make, so an event that puts game developers in a room and gives them a short time to come up with something might seem like an impossible task.

But the reason for the game jam is never the finished product, Devin Reimer, one of the developers attending said.

“Some games end up going on (after the jam)… but the main thing is the stuff that you end up learning while at the game jam. That’s what’s most valuable,” he said.

Reimer was working on a submarine game in which players could pilot submarines, shoot at each other and try to evade the other’s torpedoes. Within three hours, he had a working prototype where the submarines could be controlled. Where the game would end up, he had no idea.

“That’s one of the things. I’ve never started a game jam with the idea of ‘This is totally going to turn into something that’s going to exist,’ ” he said.

Dylan Fries, one of the organizers of the jam, said the event is a good opportunity for people to work on something with a set deadline. Many people, he said, can get lost in working on projects that never end or go anywhere.

“You have to be very disciplined and very focused, and a lot of great stuff comes out of that,” Fries said.

Daniel Voth and Rebecca Sutherland were two first-time coders at the jam. They were working on a basic idea for a game where the player controls a firefly that guides a fox through an environment.

The idea is a twist on a traditional concept where the player would be controlling the fox and have a light source guide them as they explore.

Sutherland said being first-time jam participants, she’s been impressed by the willingness to help offered by other attendees.

“It’s a very strong sense of community. I don’t want to say I didn’t expect it, but it happened a lot more than I thought. People are so friendly, they just come up to you and say ‘Hey, what are you working on?’ ” she said.

“They easily could be working on their own projects… you don’t have to ask for help,” added Voth.

The participants of the jam will show their work today at 7 p.m., and even if the submarine game Reimer worked on only ends up staying on his hard drive, it will have been a productive event, he said.

“This game jam is 70 people, which is crazy for Winnipeg… There’s a lot of people here that have never built a game, and that’s a great way to build a community.”

oliver.sachgau@freepress.mb.ca

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