Game design enthusiasts develop 5 games in 48 hours at Global Game Jam

Photo: Back row (L to R): Zack Bolt, Tanner Marshall, Geoffrey Townsley, Alex Barton, Joe Williams, and Kyle Hooks. Front row: Olivia Dunlap, Robbie Hunt, and Loren Snow.

Ten game lovers got down and dirty during the 48-hour Global Game Jam event held Jan. 26-28 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. 

Those two days were marked by tears, anger, frustration, and little sleep, but the end result was a moment of triumph as the participants, some who had no previous game development experience, banded together to complete five creative games in a short time period.

“It was exhausting, but incredibly rewarding,” said Olivia Dunlap, a UA Little Rock senior and co-founder of Little Rock Game Designers who led the event. “I was able to stay up for 36 hours straight without dying. Everyone was very energetic and positive, but there were a few tense moments as the clock started to run out.”

This is the first time UA Little Rock has participated in Global Game Jam, which is similar to a hackathon but is focused on game development. Nearly 43,000 people participated in Global Game Jam 2018, resulting in 8,597 games developed at 803 sites in 108 countries. Participants were given a theme and then had 48 hours to create a game.

The participants included UA Little Rock students Zach Bolt, Olivia Dunlap, Kyle Hooks, Tanner Marshall, co-founder of Little Rock Game Designers, Geoffrey Townsley, and Loren Snow, as well as Alex Barton, local artist, Robbie Hunt, UA Little Rock alumnus and co-founder of Little Rock Game Designers, Joe Williams, associate professor of rhetoric and writing, and Jason Zak, lead artist at the UA Little Rock Emerging Analytics Center.

“This year’s theme was transmission,” Dunlap said. “I feel like it was a good theme because it allowed for some good interpretations and some very interesting stuff came out of it. Across the world, people made car-driving games; some interpreted it as a transmission of information or the transmission of disease. There was a lot of variety.”

You can check out the games on the Global Game Jam website. They include:

  1. “Apus” by Zack Bolt, Geoffrey Townsley, Loren Snow, and Jason Zak

A small, fast-paced strategy game where players have to simultaneously bring peace and balance to four planets by transmitting heat, cold, life, and technology among them while managing breakouts of war and disease.

  1. Chaotic Good” by Joe Williams

A narrative game where players converse with people to determine if they have contracted a mysterious disease while trying not to be infected. Players must choose the fate of the people, and the disease in question isn’t quite what it seems.

  1. Chromaticity” by Olivia Dunlap

A short narrative cyberpunk game with many beginnings and one ending. Color is indicative of your android’s archetype. Players choose a palette, and see how their  choices can affect it while following a mysterious call toward the center of a sprawling city.

  1. “Got a Moment?” by Kyle Hooks and Alex Barton

An old man is tasked with imparting his wisdom to a young girl struggling with life. Players give her advice to influence her choices in a balancing act of managing logic, empathy, selfishness, and compromise in a volatile relationship.

  1. “Salgreb” by Robbie Hunt and Tanner Marshall

A card-matching puzzle game with a twist; players must answer the mysterious Salgreb’s questions, and the cards seem to move. Players must figure out the patterns  to succeed.

While many people assume that art, design, and coding skills are needed for game development, Dunlap hopes to show people that anyone can help create a game.

“The cool thing about game design is that there are some really accessible tools,” she said. “For example, there is a tool called Twine that is a text editor that allows writers to easily create branching stories. It’s a robust tool, but is also easy to pick up for first timers or anyone who isn’t programming-minded. There are a lot of options for people who can’t do art or code. Anyone who is interested in game design can come to an event like this and learn a lot.”

UA Little Rock’s event was sponsored by the Department of Rhetoric and Writing, Little Rock Game Designers, and Little Rock Games. For more information about other game design events in central Arkansas, email Olivia Dunlap at playlittlerockgames@gmail.com.

In the upper right photo, participants in the 2018 Global Game Jam brainstorm ideas for new video games. Back row (L to R): Zack Bolt, Tanner Marshall, Geoffrey Townsley, Alex Barton, Joe Williams, and Kyle Hooks. Front row: Olivia Dunlap, Robbie Hunt, and Loren Snow.

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