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Global Game Jam 2015 – How to make a game in 48 hours

I took a surprising amount of convincing to get my ticket to the York site of the 2015 Global Game Jam, since I am a dull third year Historian with plenty of more academic things to do, and with what I thought were no relevant skills with which to make a game whatsoever. My friends managed to do it however, and so I trekked all the way to the Ron Cooke Hub on Hes East on Friday the 23rd of January  in order to see what it was all about. I sit here three days later with a fully functioning playable adventure made by a team of  completely mixed abilities, which has my name on it, and I couldn’t be prouder of it or my teammates.

After some icebreaking activities to help us form teams with balanced skill sets, I found that my sole talent, music and audio design, was in high demand among the programmers and graphic artists. At the announcement of the theme, I was in a team of five, with a programmer, two artists and a writer/level designer, some beginners like me, and some more experienced, which fortunately included the Computer Science student we had as a programmer. Our reaction to this year’s theme, What do we do now? was not to consider the answer to such an open ended question, but rather to immediately make a game based on a terrible pun. And so What do we Dodo now? was born, an adventure in which you must free a newly cloned version of the extinct bird from a laboratory.

Our initial design was to navigate George, as the dodo became known, through five levels of a building, which then became three, and then one, as time marched on. While the others endeavoured to make the level’s mechanics and artwork, I sat with some free music scoring software and managed to produce a whole three songs, two of which made it into the game, as well as some brilliantly acted squawks to breathe some additional life into George. Admittedly, the songs are rather ropey MIDI tunes which loop quite a bit, but the people who played our game agreed that they fitted the peculiar feel of the game. Having finished this late on the second day, I decided to keep helping the team by learning how to draw pixel art, with a little guidance from the more artistically inclined. I have never considered myself a talented artist, and I certainly wouldn’t say that now, but with the squares all neatly arranged for me, I managed to create a computer monitor and a box of scientific equipment, which made it into the final game.

At 6PM on the Sunday, the time came to present our work, and the quality of what the teams had produced, many of them beginners like me, was incredible, and also very diverse, from a breaking-up-in-an-elevator simulator, to a game in which you had to escape a series of mazes enshrouded in darkness, with only a dying torch to guide you around the traps, to a procedurally generated game about the courtly intrigue following the murder of the king, brilliantly illustrated by The Yorker’s own Ellie Owen. There was no game which didn’t have something novel about it, and that was the most exciting part for me, as I realised how homogeneous the RPGs and FPSs I tend to play really are. All the teams were enthused to explain their games, bugs and all, as you sat down to sample their creation, and I was somewhat saddened as the room emptied of computers and people as the two days came to an end.

I do not hesitate to recommend this event to anyone with an interest in learning more about the games you play, no matter what your ability, since people will be happy to support and guide you to make the game as polished as possible, and there is no finer feeling of achievement than making something from scratch, especially if you love games dearly like I do. I will definitely be returning next year, and I hope to see you there.

All of the games created at the York Game Jam can be found here.