A global pandemic doesn’t mean ‘game over’ for Niagara game students, when it comes to participating in the world’s largest annual game creation event.
Game students and alumni alike are ready to power up for this year’s Global Game Jam, a 48-hour game development challenge, which will be held virtually from January 29-31.
This will be the sixth consecutive year that NC will be an official ‘site’ for Global Game Jam, which takes place annually in hundreds of locations around the world. Typically, the event brings students and alumni to the College’s Welland Campus to create a video game in just one weekend – with sleeping bags and plenty of snacks in tow to fuel their creative buzz. The 2021 event however, will be the first time NC is hosting the event virtually.
“This event brings out the spirit of collaboration, connection and creativity of our game students and alumni as they join game developers from around the world and apply their skills in new innovative ways,” said Linda Roote, associate dean, NC’s School of Media Studies. “We are proud of our game development community for continuing their tradition of participating in the Global Game Jam remotely during these extraordinary times, and thank organizer Tom Brown for championing this outstanding experience for our students.”
Game professor and Game Development alumnus Tom Brown has been organizing the Global Game Jam at NC since 2016. He noted that it presents a valuable opportunity to bring students from all of the College’s game programs together – including NC’s Game Development program as well as joint NC-Brock programs: Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Game Design and Bachelor of Science (Honours) Game Programming. Students have a chance to work together, create new games for their portfolio and polish their technical skills. They are also able to collaborate and network with the several program alumni who return to their alma mater to participate in the event each year.
While game programs are currently being delivered remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown felt it was vital to continue the tradition of hosting the Global Game Jam this year.
“With COVID-19 restrictions, I think socializing and collaborating online is even more important than ever for interacting between the programs and with alumni,” said Brown. “Through open-access channels and with volunteers chatting to participants as well, we hope it will nurture an atmosphere where participants are open to communicate.”
Students will collaborate with their teams using Discord – a gaming-focused server which enables users communicate directly via voice, video or text. Brown and volunteers will monitor the channels to check in on the teams throughout the Global Game Jam, as they would have on campus throughout the weekend.
Fourth-year Game Design student Kseniia Syromiatova will join her team of classmates from her home in Ukraine for the Global Game Jam this year. While she will miss working with her team on campus for the Global Game Jam as she did for a previous event – as well as access to high-end PCs from the College’s game lab – she values the opportunity to take part online as she pursues her studies remotely for the term.
“It will be a little weird since I’m in a different time zone, but I think we can figure it out,” she said, noting that many game jams are already virtual. “I think game jams are a really fun experience but there’s also a lot I can learn from them. It requires good teamwork and the ability to make good decisions fast.”
When she enrolled in the program, Syromiatova felt that creating games was a fun and fulfilling way to spend time. Now that she is in her fourth year however, she is looking ahead to her future.
“I’m thinking of it more as a career I’ll be able to pursue,” she said. “The ability to create something new out of scratch is still very alluring.”
NC’s Global Game Jam Online will kick off on January 29 at 7 p.m. with opening remarks from Brown and the much-anticipated announcement of this year’s Global Game Jam theme, which all participants must use as a guide for their game development. After the event concludes on January 31 at 5 p.m., games will be posted to the Global Game Jam website and will be available to the public.
No winner is announced for the Global Game Jam – the event is held in the spirit of collaboration, rather than competition.
Global Game Jam is operated by an international non-profit corporation founded in California. For this year’s online event, teams from around the world may participate in any 48-hour period between January 27-31, 2021. For details visit globalgamejam.org.
NC’s three-year intensive Game Development diploma program prepares students for careers in the digital game and interactive media industry. Students learn industry skills such as game programming and scripting, digital art production techniques, game design principles and game production practices.
NC also offers two dual-credential game programs with Brock University. A Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Game Design grants a four-year Bachelor of Arts-Game Design degree from Brock University and a three-year Advanced Diploma in Game Development from NC (completed in four years); a Bachelor of Science (Honours) Game Programming grants a four-year degree from Brock and a three-year Advanced Diploma in Game Development from NC (completed in four years).
Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, distilling, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit niagaracollege.ca.
Photo: GGJ20: Game professor and Game Development alumnus Tom Brown is pictured kicking off Global Game Jam 2020 surrounded by students and alumni in the game labs at NC’s Welland Campus. He has organized a virtual event for this year’s Global Game Jam, to take place January 29-21.