By Matthew Maravilla
Like every good year that comes and goes, so too did the annual Global Game Jam where NJIT happened to be one of the world’s largest sites for the game jam.
With over 20 games presented at the game jam, an NJIT record, and a whopping 126 participants, NJIT was the thirteenth largest Global Game Jam site in the United States, fifty-fifth largest in the world, and in the tri-state area (PA, NJ, NY) alone, we were the third largest site losing only to NYU and Microsoft’s NYC office. Since starting in 2010 at NJIT, the Global Game Jam, which is run globally across 90+ countries in six continents, the NJIT community has been a great ray of imagination and innovation.
“Game Jam” as a lot of the Digital Design, Computer Science, Information Systems, Architecture, and Information Technology students have been lovingly been calling the event, is a 48-hour make a game-a-thon where students, pros which we had a few, and people from all over the area came to make a game from January 29 to January 31. This year’s theme, was “ritual” which, a lot of participants took to brand new heights, new reaches, and to some of the most absurd of directions.
Walking the hallways of Weston Hall, it wasn’t just all work and no play. From the nerf gun wars to the epic foam sword duels, the weekend was one of collaboration. There were double team ups that led to the creation of games like “Funkalicious Shamnism” and “Initiation” to endeavors that only a handful of students could come up with like “Praise the Sun,” “Ritual Chaos XXX,” and “Let Me Down Gently.” One group went nuts and decided to created one of the most gorgeous global game jam games I have ever scene attempted with “Arena Souls” with “FML” being the game to try to take the theme of rituals to a more, mellow point. With these games and more that you just have to discover for yourself, there’s a reason why our students, our colleagues, take it upon themselves to slave away on what others would consider “toys” or “wastes of time.” What the 126 students who participated in the Global Game Jam at NJIT did was create art.
As a 4-year “Game Jam” veteran, you would notice all sorts of different theme with each year of game jam. When I first came in during Global Game Jam 2013, everyone looked towards new technologies with mobile and hand-crafted engines taking some of the top spots. 2014 was a year of dark, somber pieces. Last year, we all tried to go bonkers where we all tried to “go big or go home.” The thing with 2016’s “Game Jam” was that, you had a good mix of everything. While I never got to see the level of fatigue everyone had by game presentations, you could tell how much passion went into each and every game this year. Actually, come presentations, there was hype and a whole lot of ownership in every game made. Of course, everyone’s excited about presentations in years past. Because of the increase in numbers that occurred, up about 20% from last year),people were more into the games being shown. Honestly, compared to every other “Game Jam” I’ve attended, this was by far one of the most fun times I have had making games.
Global Game Jam has always been a portfolio booster and a great test of the skills for game developers and designers, artists and writers, musicians and programmers. Trying to manage a team, create art, design levels, make a soundtrack, and program a game in only 48 hours is an endeavor only taken up by the most passionate of creators. We had dozens of new game designers, a lot of which who have been able to succeed this year.
One group went ham to make their game to work with Apple TV. Another became the face of the Simulated Environments class with a gorgeous Unreal 4 game. One guy made a virtual reality version of Duck Hunt. The possibilities were and still are always endless with the kinds of people going out there, creating games that reflect themselves and the worlds they live in.
As someone who has made all sorts of different games, some annoying, some hectic, and one that encompasses some feelings I had coming into college, without things like the game jams, the game expos, and game development clubs like ACM Game SIG and ACM SIGGRAPH, I don’t know if I’d end up where I am now, along with a lot of the other people whom I’ve met on this crazy game development filled journey. In a university filled with students so versed in new concepts of theory and technology, from the things I’ve seen from our game design and game development students, I can say, especially after last week’s “Global Game Jam,” that we, NJIT, are one of the best game development schools in the country.