There’s nothing quite like the intensity and excitement of forty-eight hours of working together to create a new game. Ask any participant in a game jam. Then, at Global Game Jam, multiply that excitement with the knowledge that teams are doing the same thing in centers around the globe.
2017 was the second year for Global Game Jam Ukraine. It is a partner event with Indie Prize where certain winners are given the opportunity to compete at a Casual Connect and Indie Prize of their choice. Recently Casual Connect asked Oleksii Izvalov, Regional Organizer in Eastern Europe for Global Game Jam, about the event. He described the incredible feeling that came from seeing game developers from every part of the country gathering together to make a game.
Intensity of Creativity
The level of creativity present at the event was amply demonstrated in the game Rock A Wave, which effectively combined Viking imagery with rock themes. Oleksii describes several factors that contributed to this small, but complete, game. During the forty-eight hours of the event the team managed to create a well-styled art set, arrange levels, keep the difficulty growing and balance the player’s progression. The setting of the game appealed to all the judges even though they were both local and international and represented different branches of the game development industry. Interpreting the theme of “wave” as a rock-concert wave was unusually creative.
This event was possible only through the support of the Kirovograd Flight Academy. They provided the venue, tech support, volunteers and accommodations. One of their specialties is Aviation Search and Rescue with a curriculum that includes hiking and camping, so they provided the Global Game Jam participants with tents and sleeping bags where they could rest on location.
Of the 700 GGJ locations, the GGJUA was 55th in size, with 122 participants and 32 projects. The large number of jammers shows that, not only is the work of GGJUA needed by the community, but also that there is tremendous potential. So for 2018 they are planning several GGJ locations in the country.
Global Game Jam came to Ukraine in 2016. The first event brought 76 participants who developed 14 projects, so the second year has seen very significant growth. Next year, the tenth anniversary for Global Game Jam in the world, will be exciting in Ukraine, with jams in Kyiv, Odessa and Lviv, as well as the central location in Kropyvnytskyi. And there may be additional local organizers.
The influence of Global Game Jam is growing beyond the event itself. At JamJam, an annual jam organizers meeting in Finland, they developed the idea of Eurojam. This would be a European online game creation event. The aim is to tighten links between gamedev communities from various countries. The project is still under development and may be announced this autumn.
In November, 2016, Yuliya Moshkaryova contacted Oleksii to offer tickets to Casual Connect for the winners. The winners could choose to attend one of the conferences in Berlin, Singapore or Seattle. And just before GGJUA, she revealed that Casual Connect would be returning to Kyiv. This was an important step for the jammers, many of whom were students or indies. Now they could choose to attend a conference only 300 kilometers from the main Global Game Jam Ukraine locations and show their current work, attend useful lectures and arrange meetings.
Benefiting the IT Community
Game jams, hackathons, and IT conferences all benefit the local IT community. After each one the community experiences solid growth and more links to other IT communities are established. Oleksii describes, “After GGJUA 17 many of our mobile developers started cooperating with EnhanceTM platform which jury members defined “Best Mobile Game” award. Cooperation with Mike Hines from Amazon continued after the Jam and made it possible to arrange an Amazon Developer Day in Kyiv.”
The Ukranian developers who received tickets to conferences have already attended White Nights in Prague, Nordic Games in Malmo and DevCom in Cologne where they established new professional links and gained valuable experience. Coming next will be developers attending the Game Industry Conference in Poznan. The developers who attended Casual Connect Kyiv have had nine months to polish the games they presented there where they hope they impressed potential partners and publishers.
Several of the teams that formed at GGJUA have continued to work together on polishing and releasing their entries or on new projects. GGJUA helped them create more than a game, they also helped them develop studios for the long term. And only two days after Global Game Jam the first game was released to Play market. Oleksii finds it gratifying to see that even some participants who didn’t complete their projects during the event have continued to work together, releasing games in May.
Influencing Education in GameDev
Higher education in the Ukraine also benefits from game jams and hackathons. Several educational establishments have a Game Development specialty. Students who participated in Global Game Jam gained valuable experience in extreme game development. Teachers from higher education organizations were invited to participate as jury members and now continue working on projects with the students. GGJUA has joined the international community of game jam and hackathon research, publishing two papers in the proceedings of the first and second International Conference on Game Jams, Hackathons and Game Creation Events. Increasingly, universities and schools in the Ukraine are starting courses in game development as a way to modernize IT education and teach students useful skills.
There Are No Limits
Oleksii points out that more and more developers are proud to announce that they are Global Game Jam participants. This gives them a step up in their careers since game development companies are recognizing Game Jam as valuable training in game development skills. Developers also post news of their games in social networks; GGJUA and the central organizing committee share these posts to increase exposure.
“What I like best in Global Game Jam,” Oleksii emphasizes, “is that there are no limits, no restrictions of preferences for the technology used or the genre of created game. Thus it’s possible to build interdisciplinary links in the IT community in the most efficient way.” But he also believes themed hackathons are important; they take place regularly in the Ukraine although they attract fewer participants than GGJ. As he points out, “Our IT community is very friendly.” They are always ready to help the organizers themed hackathons boost their events. In conclusion, Oleksii wanted to share, “We had a significant growth of Global Game Jam in Ukraine since 2017. In 2018 5 cities and 350 developers created 88 games (in 2017 the stats were 1/122/32).” Some other Global Game Jam locations have started to partner with Casual Connect this year.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.