Global Game Jam @ Mekensleep.

At Brandon Sheffield's request, here's a repost of what happened during the Global Game Jam at Mekensleep on the last days of January 2009.

 At Brandon Sheffield's request, here's a repost of what happened during the Global Game Jam at Mekensleep on the last days of January 2009.




This past weekend, Mekensleep was hosting the Paris event of the Global Game Jam. For the first time ever, teams in 23 countries all over the world were given 48 hours to make games - or die trying. Each location started at 5:00pm local time on friday and ended at 5:00pm on sunday. The games all had to follow a set of constraints that were disclosed at the very last moment:

I- A complete play session must always last 5 minutes or less.

II- The theme of the game should be “As long as we have each other, we will never run out of problems.”

A third constraint was introduced with a variation for each time zone. In France we had:

III- Choose ONE of the following adjectives to incorporate in your game (each team chooses which one to use): developing, falsifying or trapped.

Although the total number of participants in the GGJ was a whopping 1600, and some sites like Copenhagen were over 100, we wanted to keep things small as this was our first attempt at running a game jam and Mekensleep is not well suited to fit large numbers anyway.
So we were 13: 10 participants, 1 researcher, 1 film maker and myself as resident cheerleader.

Following the excellent video keynote by Kyle Gabler, I announced the constraints and people started to work on initial pitches. After hearing all these ideas, we used a brainstorming process to sort them out and discard the worst. People then settled on three projects and set up teams accordingly.

Jamming then started in earnest. Lots of pizzas, coke, sweets and coffee. Lots of sweat, fear, arguments and passion. Very little sleep of course - if any at all…
Making a game is always hard but making a game in 48 hours with people you have just met borders on insanity. Failure rate in the industry is high as it is but it’s massive in game jams: easily over 80%. So imagine my surprise and my delight when after 48 hours, our three minuscule teams in Paris (with only one coder per team and barely enough artists to do anything) had all managed to create playable, finished games.

- Reons
The first game to cross the finish line was made without any graphic artist. Just one coder and one sound designer. But what Team KRRKRR lacked, they compensated with style: the techno-industrial soundtrack and effects perfectly matches the minimalist techno visuals and creates a really moody atmoshpere. The game is especially noteworthy because - as its summary explains - it interprets the constraint in an original way.

- The ex-chipendales Bob & Bob in: together in the dark, raiders of the Lua temple
Our second game is a co-op, retro looking delirium with a main mechanic that works surprisingly well given how late the game came together. Team Bob was very design oriented with three designer types for a single coder that struggled valientely to implement everything his partners asked for. The game is without question our funniest, with lots of references and tongue-in-cheek humor.

- Waltz apple
The last game to finish is also arguably our most original. In Waltz apple, the player dance together on the keyboard and the music evolves along the completed apple patterns. At one point, Team Waltz123 flirted with failure when they discovered that keyboards cannot recognize 4 keys pressed at the same time. They narrowly escaped defeat by finding out they could use the control keys.

I am a terrible reviewer and could never find the words to do these games justice, so I won’t try. Just do us all a favor and play them - not because I ask but because they deserve to be played.

So all in all, what did I take out of the Global Game Jam?
Well, it was intense and it was hard but in the end we had three games and lots of happy faces. Totally worth it!

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