Experiences from the 2014 Toronto Global Game Jam

The 2014 Toronto Global Game Jam last weekend was definitely an event to be remembered.

The TGGJ, which is the Global Game Jam’s location in Toronto, was held at the George Brown College of Applied Arts and Technology. We took up the fifth and sixth floors of the college where its Digital Media & Gaming Incubator is situated.  The GGJ is an event held all around the world, where teams are challenged to make a complete game in 48 hours. Think about that: we programmers, sound designers, graphic artists and writers had only two days to make fully functional games. Bear in mind that I am a writer and I have little to no programming experience and that I only really got to learn Twine, a text-based hyper-linking free bit of software, only a few months ago (and even now I only know how to use the basics).

We spent the first part of the Jam finding our assigned computer work rooms. I actually deposited my belongings, including my sleeping bag, into the spare classroom on the sixth floor. While it is discouraged for the most part, according to the event organizers Randy Orenstein and Troy Morrissey, I decided to sleep where my work would be (as I did last year, when I decided to try out this event for the first time without even the knowledge of Twine and hoping to find some people in need of a writer).

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About 300 Jammers registered and participated in the Jam itself. After settling in, we were eventually called down to learn this year’s game theme.  Every year the Jam gets a different theme to work with: which is, essentially, the prompt which we were going to shape our games around.

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The theme of this year’s Game Jam was, “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.”

That is a pretty open-ended theme, isn’t it? So I wrote it on one of my business cards and went upstairs.

TGGJ 14 Grab Bag

Earlier, at our assigned computer workstations, we were given gift bags. These bags had a variety of candy bars and snacks, mostly to maintain energy, but they also had a schedule for the events of the next two days as well as a schedule of when we were to upload our games onto the Global Game Jam site.

Contents of TGGJ 14 Grab Bag

This was, more or less, a similar format to how last year’s Toronto Global Game Jam worked. There were, however, some differences. For instance, while this year also had its Team Jammers and Solo Jammers (pre-established designer groups and solitary game-makers), there were two additions that didn’t exist last year. The first was “Team Random.”  Team Random essentially was a group of people who didn’t have teams and were looking to collaborate with people at the event. Last year, I was in Team Random, though we were not named as such and there were much fewer of us. I actually like the fact that this year the organizers actually went out of their way during announcements to ask who was looking for teammates and they seemed to have a more organized structure in mind for dealing with that. Last year, as I said, I didn’t even know how to use Twine and there was some anxiety there at the time.

The second addition this year was the Floaters. Floaters were an assortment of independent programmers, sound designers and artists that were either free to join other teams, give them advice, or even contribute some of their expertise to certain parts of other people’s projects. Unfortunately I wasn’t in a position to use any of their skills, though I did talk with a few, as I basically started my project solidly after the Friday introductions.

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On the Friday I had written up a considerable amount of notes, but I still wasn’t sure what I was doing. I almost switched away from the idea I had made so many notes for but I was stuck. The fact of the matter was that I had a story in mind that was pretty complex and a challenge to make. But by the middle of Saturday I had a decision to make and so I began writing out my story.

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I wrote it directly into the Twine boxes that you can see right here.

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And so, from roughly 3 pm to 12 pm on the following Sunday I wrote out and built my Twine story while socializing at times and drinking a whole lot of tea and sugar generously donated by Starbucks. There was a raffle for some cool free stuff (we got a ticket in our grab bags and, no, I didn’t win anything) and the session finished off with the announcement of  a wedding having occurred between the duo that made up Team: “I’m a Pretty Princess” (who actually came back and continued their work) and me having finished my first ever Solo Game Jam (I was the sole member of “Team Eldritch”).

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The Global Game Jam encourages Play Parties to showcase all the games that were created during the event along with their creators. Last year, the Toronto Global Game Jam had an Arcade and there is going to be another one this summer as well. I know I will be there with my “choose your own adventure” text game which you can find right here on the GGJ site:  The Looking Glass. This year the Global Game Jam site extended the time we had to upload our submissions. It is an improvement over the first attempt that I linked on G33kPr0n months ago and I hope to keep exploring this world of creation and community.

And you had better believe I will be doing this again next year.

Matthew K TGGJ 14

Photo Credit: Uber Events and Promotions

You can find more of Uber Events and Promotions‘ TGGJ Group Portraits at this flickr account.

Correction: The GGJ (the Global Game Jam) is an event held all around the world. The TGGJ (the Toronto Global Game Jam) is local in Toronto.

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About matthewkirshenblatt

I am a writer and blogger living in the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario in Canada. When I'm not writing for the Sequart Research & Literacy Organization and GeekPr0n, I tend to write science-fiction, epic fantasy, horror, literary and mythological revisionisms, and generally weird fiction stories though I have been known to make poetry, television and comic book scripts. Also, when left to my own devices I tend to write weird and strange hybrid creative opinion piece articles like those you will find on this Blog. I am also very interested in comics, video games, Star Wars, table-top role-playing games, Neil Gaiman's works, H.P. Lovecraft, vampires, zombies, and budgies.
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