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NIU hosts inaugural Global Game Jam

February 14, 2015

Six NIU participants in the 2015 Global Game Jam

Alayne Williams had never made a video game, but that didn’t stop her from getting into the groove at Global Game Jam 2015, held Jan. 23-25 at NIU’s Digital Convergence Lab located in the NIU Founders Memorial Library.

“It was a wonderful experience that not many get a chance to have,” said Williams, a senior majoring in time arts. “It’s not a jam that’s only meant for skilled people; it’s meant for anyone and everyone who enjoys games of all kinds.”

Since 2009, Global Game Jam has been bringing people together from around the world on the same weekend to plan, design and create video games in a short time span. This year, more than 28,000 people from 78 countries participated at 518 sites, including NIU.

“This is an international phenomena and it was NIU’s first time hosting a site,” said Aline Click, director of NIU Outreach eLearning Services and co-director of the Digital Convergence Lab. “Big and small name universities, schools and creative think tanks from all over the world came together in an effort to become a community of amateur game designers.”

Global Game JamEric Russell, interactive media developer at NIU’s Digital Convergence Lab, said game jams are a great way to create games under tight time constraints.

“People who don’t necessarily have the time to spend months on a project can come here for a weekend and brainstorm,” said Russell, who ran NIU’s inaugural Global Game Jam. “Some ideas may work, or maybe they fail, but either way you learn something. It’s a chance to try something new and make new friends.”

Williams was one of 12 people who attended the free event, which included students and members of the community.

“These are the kinds of activities President Baker has been talking about; activities that bring together NIU students and community members,” Click said. “One of our missions is to look for ways to let the community know who we are and what we do.”

The theme for the weekend-long jam remains a secret until it’s about to start. This year’s them, “What do we do now?” was announced Friday night, and the fun began.

“Team locations from around the world stayed in contact with one another via email and Twitter, streaming their locations live on YouTube and Twitch,” Click said. “They even managed to get volunteers to help translate to everyone could communicate.”

Williams and her group worked on a game called We Didn’t Start the Fire,” a puzzle game set in a 3-D environment.

“The game was created to be frustrating as well as mind-boggling,” said Williams. “We didn’t use normal controls, and not everything is what it seems to be.”

Plans are already in the works for next year’s Global Game Jam, which is set for Jan. 29-31, 2016.

“Of the students and community members that showed up, we had complete participation until the event was over late Sunday afternoon,” Click said. “It is just a fun global event of people, young and old, who are passionate about game design. My hope is to have 10 times as many attendees for next year.”

To keep apprised on the latest happenings, like the Digital Convergence Lab on Facebook or email [email protected] to get on their email list.