Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) hosted the Invercargill Global Game Jam recently, and had a productive weekend producing six new games, amidst the fun and collaboration.
Started in California in 2008, Global Game Jam is an international organisation, there are participants from all over the world; in 2020 the event had 934 sites in 118 countries, all adding to the body of work in gaming.
Held the last weekend in January (29th-31st), 4pm Friday to 5pm Sunday, on-site and online from SIT Downtown campus in Don Street, the Global Game Jam was fully equipped with all the hardware and software needed to complete any project the game developers could dream up.
Rachel Mann, Animation Game Design Programme Leader at SIT, has facilitated the event for the last three years and is pleased with the results and growth in the 48-hour, game-making fest.
“We have grown in that time from making one game in the first year, to making six games this year, (five of which you can get on the internet)” she said, citing it provides opportunities and numerous positive flow-on effects.
“Activities like the Global Game Jam foster learning, collaboration, building working relationships, friendship, and more. It’s fantastic for the camaraderie”.
The intense game-developing weekend sees students collaborating to design a game, make the assets, code the game, make all the artwork/images, and test the game to make sure it works. In the process it provides a platform for innovative thought and growth in skills.
“It’s an enormous amount of work to achieve in 48 hours” said Ms Mann. She said communication is key during the weekend as participants carry out group work, learning as they go.
“They learn skills off each other, they’re forced to learn how to work with each other (to achieve the game). It’s a good opportunity to network, they all want to do future collaborations”.
For the participants who couldn’t make it to campus, they were able to take part online and she said they played an integral part in developing the games they were involved in.
“We had people on-site and off-site and they all had to be on the same page, even though they weren’t all in the same location”.
Anyone can attend the annual event, Ms Mann said most attendees this year were former, current or future SIT students. She said some students cut their summer holidays short and came back early to campus so they could participate in Global Game Jam.
Ms Mann also facilitates the Invercargill Game Developers Meet-ups, held regularly in the city. It’s a chance to meet together, catch up on the latest news and what’s happening in the gaming industry. They occasionally have guest speakers; it’s also a chance to pass on information gathered from overseas conferences – members can present their experiences and new knowledge to the group.
In building a community of like-minded people Ms Mann said it provides friendships, the sharing of ideas and collaboration opportunities.
She said gaming is no longer seen as confined to teenage boys in their bedroom, playing into the wee, small hours; it’s much bigger and broader than that. It touches many areas of life, the technology benefiting contemporary communities in a multitude of ways.
“A whole infrastructure exists in New Zealand for the industry and it’s growing at a fast rate. It’s a very exciting career move with endless possibilities in a rapidly advancing sector, and it can be applied in so many ways”.
“We’re a little part of this huge thing going on world-wide, and we’re putting our work out into the global community’.