Jamming out

Ferris students create video games in a weekend’s time

Ferris students, mostly digital animation and game design (DAGD), put aside sleep over the weekend to try to create video games in a 48- hour time limit.

Global Game Jam is an event in which game creators, both professional and amateur work to create a video game within 48-hours. This year’s event ran from Friday evening through Sunday evening. When the event starts teams are given a general theme to follow and then must brainstorm ideas and create a game to be submitted within the time limit.

This year’s theme was repair. During the brainstorming process teams at Ferris could be overheard discussing a variety of ideas, including games featuring robots building and repairing themselves throughout the game and a first-person shooter where players collect parts for new weapons from slain enemies.

Unlike many game jams, Global Game Jam is not a competition but rather an opportunity for game creators to come together and test their skills. Teams are also allowed to work from games they have previously created, which is not allowed in competitive game jams.

The strict time constraints of the game jam left little time for participants to sleep over the weekend. During the final game presentations on Sunday one participant spoke about how his team only slept for about three hours each night, and another student said that he didn’t sleep at all over the 48-hour span.

For students the event is a chance to step outside of their comfort zone and come away with valuable skills and lessons.

“I think with game design there are just so many skills involved. Art skills and programming skills are the obvious ones but there are many less obvious ones: writing, communication, project management. If a student puts in the full weekend many of them will end up having to do things that they haven’t done before,” said Ferris School of Digital Media professor Nick Pattison during the initial hours of the event.

When the event ended, many student participants felt that they learned valuable lessons that they could apply to the classroom, as well as the workplace.

Ferris DAGD sophomore Jared Ebels said one of the most important takeaways for himself and other students participating in the game jam was the art of cutting unneeded material. Ebels said that teams start with big ideas and plans for their games and quickly realize they’ll need to cut out about 80% of those ideas to finish a game within the time limit.

“Even in the workplace these time constraints, while not necessarily 48 hours you still have pretty short time constraints in order to make a game. Being able to look at your idea and cut away that you know you can’t do, as much as that might hurt you, is one of the biggest things you can take away from the game jam,” Ebels said.

For other students the final process of putting everyone’s individual contributions into a single final product was a valuable learning experience.

“We’re often in this program taught the pieces and then way at the end we’re taught to put them together. We’re taught to model, to rig, to animate, to program a game but we’re never taught to pull it back together until something like this. That’s why that was the hardest part and now we know a lot more about how to do that as a team,” Ferris DAGM junior Michael Lopez said.

During the final presentations teams seemed proud of what they were able to accomplish and despite the common theme of repair the finished products varied greatly. Each game looked completely unique in animation and had different controls and tasks. While in one game the player is on a spaceship finding items to repair the ship, another was the aforementioned idea of a shooting game where the player collects abilities from enemies in a randomly generated map and the other games were equally unique.

Each of the five games created by Ferris students and faculty for the 2020 Global Game Jam can be found and played by going to globalgamejam.org and searching for Ferris State University.