RVA’s Global Game Jam Was Awesome And You Can Play The Games To Prove It

by | Jan 29, 2014 | POLITICS

Richmond hosted its very own Global Game Jam through the RVA Game Jams community at the 804RVA event space this past weekend, and it was a unique look into a fledging industry.

Richmond hosted its very own Global Game Jam through the RVA Game Jams community at the 804RVA event space this past weekend, and it was a unique look into a fledging industry.

A Game Jam is an event where people assemble development teams to conceive and create a new video game… in 48 hours. Most big-name video games can take months, or even years to develop, but the goal of a Game Jam is to get something together and do it quick, and to give those unfamiliar with game production a chance to get behind the scenes.

In addition to giving newbies and veterans a chance to get together and create something original, this Game Jam was extra special because it was a part of Jam Sessions being held simultaneously around the globe.

Programmers, designers, artists or anyone with the creative drive to develop a game can participate in a jam. However, it’s important to realize that a game jam is not a competition; it’s an experience for people to grow, an opportunity to dive into game developing and a chance to collaborate to accomplish a common goal. But the best part is we get to play them! (Link to the complete list of games below)

Indie game developer Zoe Quinn was the RVA Game Jam’s special guest speaker. Her most noted work is with her game Depression Quest, an interactive fiction game where you play as someone living with depression.

Quinn mentioned that people have actually reached out to her, saying Depression Quest has helped them personally. Her game has also been used to help people without depression to understand what living with depression might be like.

Aside from game developing, Quinn has written for Gawker’s video game blog, Kotaku, and dabbled in stand-up comedy. She is co-founder of Dames Making Games, in addition to being a strong voice against sexism and ignorance in the gaming communities.

Having participated in many Game Jams in the past, Quinn was able to give the teams tips and tricks to creating a game in such a short amount of time.

She had great number of insights on the creative process, work ethic, and how to handle criticism. Some of the advice included topics like keeping the concept simple, conveying a single idea, and playing off of individual strengths.

Participants valued her advice, considering her experience with Game Jams and the time it takes for an average game to develop.

Creating a game in 48 hours can be a difficult feat. But surprisingly every team finished with a game to show, though some had varying levels of polish.

One thing all of the games had in common was an underlying theme, a tradition held by most Game Jams. This jam session’s theme was: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” A theme as thought-provoking as this led to some equally complex games.

One of the games presented, entitled Herd, lets you take control of a herd of musk oxen and travel a vast landscape looking to befriend or fight other oxen. The developers explained that they intended the game to explore mob mentality and allow players to make the decision to be cordial or violent.

Some games went in a more abstract direction. Menagerie is a first-person game where you take aim and select different animals to then take on their perspective. It seemed to be a crowd favorite judging from the waves of laughter when an elephant would get hurled into the sky by explosions.

What was most surprising was the variety in the games shown. Princess Tina is a cute and beautifully drawn platform game. Elevator is a hilarious and intuitive multiplayer cell phone game in which players must avoid fart clouds.

Seeing the end products from RVA Game Jams made it clear these events are not just about making games. The perspective of the indie gaming community views games as art, communication, entertainment, and education.

Quinn touched on the idea of a game jam itself to be more of a personal journey; a chance to hone your skills.

Quinn says she has seen Game Jam participation double over just a few sessions, and she believes these jam sessions are growing. Quinn noted that indie games now have the potential to become something huge.

Princess Tina developer Erin Conley spoke about his general love of video games and we discovered we both had a mutual fascination for the cult indie game Journey. We talked about how games like Journey are so refreshing because they aren’t competing with the mainstream video game market and aren’t afraid to implement new gameplay ideas.

Prototypes for popular games like Braid, World of Goo, and Audiosurf have all originated in a game jam environment. From my time spent covering the RVA Global Game Jam, I gathered that Indie games have played a very important role in the gaming community as a whole. They show games don’t have to be centered on conflict and violence to be entertaining.

The RVA Game Jams community is planning on continuing to host jam sessions. The next Game Jam is slated for spring 2014. If you are interesting in participating in a jam or for more information, check out their website.

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

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