The Taylor University Computer Science & Engineering Department hosted their second GameJam this past weekend, a new every-semester event. Twenty students signed up for this thirty-hour intense digital game design and programming contest. The event started Friday at 6 pm and finished Saturday at midnight. The voted-upon Theme for this contest was “Escape.”
I stopped by GameJam Fall 2014 for a few hours, assisting some of the teams with brainstorming and problem solving. For this second GameJam, a math faculty member and I were invited to attend as game consultants and sounding boards for the students. Each of us work in the tabletop game industry, I as a freelancer and Derek Thompson as a game reviewer, and both of us are avid tabletop and video gamers. We were there throughout the weekend to discuss game mechanics, engine design, game theory, interface design, game industry, iterative design, and be a general sounding board for the students’ design process. Dr. Jon Denning, a TU CSE professor, and David Nurkkala, a TU CSE student with game programming experience, were there as hosts of the event and to assist with programming questions.
The event started out with formalities, then the students got right to work coding. When food would arrive, the noise would pick up with lots of talking and sharing about their work so far. Then, after thirty minutes or so, things would get quiet again as teams would focus on whiteboards or their computer screens. The students slowly faded out as the hours grew long, heading off to their rooms to sleep for a couple hours, finding a couch to nap on, and an adventurous group even set up a tent in the computer lab. That was not expected but really added to the ambiance. Even I headed off for a few hours sleep. Only Dr. Denning made it through the entire night and into Saturday (he did finally go take a nap for a few hours).
The games were all submitted at midnight on Saturday and will be peer reviewed this week. I will post the winners once they are announced in a week or so.
It was wonderful to spend the time with the students. You could feel the excitement and energy of the students throughout the event. Derek and I were not as involved with the teams as we had hoped, but we were still glad to have been involved. For the next GameJam, we are looking to encourage more design and prototyping before the head-down coding, with hopes of having more well-developed games. Even GameJam is an iterative design process as we work to make the event better each time.
How much have you worked with digital games along with your tabletop gaming freelancing? Have you ever participated in an intense short time period game design contest, digital or tabletop? Any suggestions you have for making this event even better?