About 30 software coders, artists, and others with an interest in game development spent the weekend at Lawrence Technological University during the second annual Game Jam on campus.
The event was part of Global Game Jam, a worldwide celebration of art and creativity in game development that had thousands of developers gather at hundreds of sites to make new games and expand their skills.
Participants in LTU’s Game Jam included students at LTU and other universities, and professionals from companies such as Quicken Loans and Grand Rapids-based Open Systems Technologies. The event was organized by Marshall Ashton, director and assistant professor of game art for LTU’s Bachelor of Fine Art in Game Design program.
“While coursework develops fundamental skills needed to succeed in the industry, extracurricular projects really define what makes someone in game development employable, be it in art, code, design, or one of the many other disciplines in the field,” Ashton said.
Game developers at the LTU jam worked for 48 hours straight, from 5 p.m. Friday to 5 p.m. Sunday. They gathered Friday and organized themselves into teams to develop their games, and worked through the weekend, grabbing sleep and food as they could.
Computer gaming is serious stuff, with many businesses and the government using gaming techniques to train and communicate with employees, customers, and the public. And the industry is huge – merely the entertainment part of video and computer games generated $30.4 billion in revenue in 2016, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Besides the BFA in Game Art, LTU also offers a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with a game software development concentration. LTU earned the No. 29 spot on The Princeton Review's list of the top 50 undergraduate schools to study game design for 2017.
The games invented at the LTU Game Jam were wildly different, from an adventure game in which a player tries to protect a moving train from bandits to a rooftop battle game to games where players try to transport aliens back to their home planets.
Game Jam participant Carissa Vadella, a sophomore in computer science from West Bloomfield Township, said the weekend's event was her fourth Game Jam.
"I love participating in these sorts of things." she said. "The short time period is a really great challenge, and always spurs some interesting game concepts. It's amazing being able to bond with local game developers and continue to foster this community."
The games weren’t judged. According to the Global Game Jam website, the event “encourages innovation, collaboration and creativity. We find competition often diminishes collaboration and innovation. Every jammer is a winner at GGJ, with their prize being the games and friends they make.”
For more information on Global Game Jam, visit globalgamejam.org.