48 Hours at the Global Game Jam in Bydgoszcz
#technology & innovation
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This year’s edition of the Global Game Jam drew a record number of participants, who took part from over 700 places around the globe. 10 Polish cities also held GGJ events, including Bydgoszcz, where contestants met for the third time at Kazimierz Wielki University.
global game jam
Friday, 20th January 2017
Participants begin to assemble in the University library in the early afternoon. Some have come practically without any luggage, others have arrived with everything but the kitchen sink – they’re serious about spending the next 48 hours here. The hosts point out bags full of carrots, which people are welcome to much on. The carrots being one of the sponsor’s responses to the main food group eaten during most GGJs being pizza. All of this is just prep. The moment everyone’s is waiting for is 5:00 PM. That is when the organisers will enter the auditorium, show a short film greeting all the contestants and… will reveal the theme of this year’s jam. Work starts at 5:00 PM in each time zone – the creators of GGJ simply ask for information about the GGJ theme not to be shared until after contestants in Hawaii have started working.
Finally – the lights dim and the film starts. It opens with a short introduction by the crew of the internet series Extra Credits, full of simple, but not necessarily obvious rules: don’t force your ideas on others; remember to get enough sleep; instead of making the best game in the world, make one that will actually work. At last the theme appears: waves. The previously peaceful atmosphere changes all of a sudden: people start running around, forming groups, looking for comfortable work stations. This night is usually sleepless and full of heated discussions, drafts and drawings of complicated game mock-ups, which seem ingenious at midnight and futile in the morning.
Saturday, 21st January 2017
This is first and foremost a busy day. Ideas conceived in the heads of the participants at night have to take on a more realistic form. This year, many contestants are working by themselves, which means they are simultaneously the game designer, programmer, graphic designer and sound engineer. However, GGJ promotes cooperation beyond the individual projects participants are working on. Games are being created in the auditorium, but their creators don’t just stare at their computer screens: they walk around, look at other people’s creations and share not only pizza (and carrots), but ideas too. A musician called Hercules was so obliging that he ended up being the co-author of the music of every game created in the area surrounding him. In the hall where board games are being conjured up (one-person teams only), the room is buzzing with hard working participants – often the first idea they come up with is a 54-card game –only later do they realise that they will have to illustrate each card themselves.
Sunday, 22nd January 2017
In the morning, the library is almost silent. Some are snoring soundly in their sleeping bags, others have fallen asleep wherever they had their last bite of pizza or sip of coffee. Only the toughest are working on the morning of the third day. There is a hint of madness in their eyes. At this point, the games should have mostly taken shape – the time has come to look for errors and add details. Life returns around noon. The designers wake up, prowling the corridors and taking their places at computers or boards.
For some, the night was especially difficult – the programmer of one group gave up. The remaining two considered following in his footsteps. Their final decision was: we’re making a new game, from scratch, it doesn’t matter how good it is as long as it exists. At the end of the Bydgoszcz GGJ on Sunday at 5:00 PM, the jury awards the best games. But there are no prizes throughout the jam as a whole – every game created in 48 hours is a success. Perhaps the biggest winners were people like the aforementioned stubborn duo, who knew they had just 24 hours left and decided to stay and keep working, when they always had the option to quit.
Originally written in Polish by Paweł Schreiber, 3 Feb 2017, translated by WF, 28 Feb 2017, edited by NR, 2 March 2017