UA Little Rock’s CRUX Lab hosts Global Game Jam 2020

UA Little Rock students participate in Global Game Jam 2020 at the UA Little Rock CRUX Lab. Pictured left to right are Zach Bolt, Bushra Sajid, Emily Hillyard, Travis Bailey, and Loren Snow.

Sixteen local game enthusiasts took part in Global Game Jam 2020 from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In just 48 hours, they created seven new games for the world to enjoy.

“This was our third year hosting the Global Game Jam at UA Little Rock’s CRUX Lab, and it was the biggest and best one yet,” said graduate student Olivia Dunlap, a co-founder of Little Rock Game Designers who co-led the event with alumnus and co-founder Robbie Hunt.

Global Game Jam is similar to a hackathon but is focused on game development. Over 48,700 people participated in Global Game Jam 2020 from 934 locations spanning 118 countries. Participants were given a “Repair” theme and then had 48 hours to create a game.

Dunlap said she especially appreciates how the event not only brings together people of all different backgrounds and skill levels, but also helps to grow the local game development community.

“Every year, the whole place is just buzzing with creative energy and lots of fun, smart people helping brainstorm, problem-solve, and playtest each other’s games,” graduate student Loren Snow said. “It’s exhausting, but well worth it to have a functional game to show off at the end. The inspiration stays with me long after the weekend has passed, and I also make a bunch of new friends every year.”

Computer science major Kyle Hooks said Global Game Jam is one of his most favorite events of the year.

“Getting a chance to work with old friends and new ones on games is good fun and great practice for my programming and design skills,” Hooks said. “The fact that it’s not a competition makes it much more relaxed, too, which I think helps people think outside the box without added pressure.”

Global Game Jam 2020 participants write their skills on a whiteboard to form teams. Pictured left to right are Robbie Hunt, Kyle Hooks, Olivia Dunlap, Dr. Joe Williams, Zach Bolt, Dr. Joyce Carter, and Emily Hillyard.
Global Game Jam 2020 participants write their skills on a whiteboard to form teams. Pictured left to right are Robbie Hunt, Kyle Hooks, Olivia Dunlap, Dr. Joe Williams, Zach Bolt, Dr. Joyce Carter, and Emily Hillyard.

This year’s participants included UA Little Rock students Mark Barnes, Zach Bolt, Dunlap, Snow, Venus Mitteer, Bushra Sajid, and Skylar Whitehurst, as well as Travis Bailey, Alex Barton, Sean Beasley, Erik Frederick, Emily Hillyard, Hooks, and Hunt.

UA Little Rock employees joined in on the fun, including Brad Sims, media and online instruction specialist for the College of Education and Health Professions, and Jason Zak, lead artist at the UA Little Rock Emerging Analytics Center. Tanner Marshal, a computer science graduate student, and Dr. Joe Williams, associate professor of rhetoric and writing, helped run the event, and Dr. Joyce Carter, chair of the Department of Rhetoric and Writing, cheered on the teams.

“This was my first time participating in Global Game Jam,” said Bushra Sajid, a computer science major. “It was fun working with my team and felt amazing when we turned an idea into reality in just 48 hours. I will definitely participate next year.”

Snow said she is primarily an artist, but is learning to program through osmosis. Snow worked on a team to make a game titled “Larry Fixes the World” while simultaneously working on a solo project called “Dr. Smesh’s Nightmare Emporium.”

“Our jammers made a total of seven new games, all of which are really creative and did totally different and interesting things with this year’s ‘Repair’ theme,” Dunlap said.

The games are available on the Global Game Jam website. They include:

Dr. Smesh’s Nightmare Emporium by Loren Snow – Dr. Smesh helps his patients deal with their nightmares. His methods are questionable.

Dream Theory by Robbie Hunt and Alex Barton – Dream Theory is a logic puzzle with a light narrative. What happens in your brain when you have a lot on your mind and you wake up with a new outlook and the perfect solution to your problems?

In Need Of Repair by Sean Beasley – Ideally, this physics-based construct could walk smoothly and naturally. In practice, it is a bit wibbly-wobbly. Using left and right arrows, a center motor will drive the locomotion of legs and move the construct.

Kyle Hooks designs his game "Iterate".
Kyle Hooks designs his game “Iterate.”

Iterate by Kyle Hooks and Mark Barns – “Give your life to repair the Great Machine.” Iterate is an atmospheric, replayable puzzle game about transcendence, about many parts contributing to the greater whole. Each Iterator you play as, uniquely and randomly generated, lives for only a brief moment in time. However, your combined efforts (be they multiple lives of your own, or others) will ultimately open the gates to become one with the Sparkmother, the Great Machine, that looms over you in the distance. The game is intended to be played in separate, repeated sessions, where progress made in each 20-second cycle is persistent.

Larry Fixes the World by Zack Bolt, Travis Bailey, Bushra Sajid, Emily Hillyard, and Loren Snow – You play as the handyman, Larry. The object of the game is to repair the various broken things in your life. Choose your tools wisely.

Medic Mech by Skylar Whitehurst, Venus Mitteer, Alex Barton, and Jason Zak – Repair them…it’s all you know. Endlessly you repair others like you, fueling the engine you reside within. Parts must be ordered and quality is key because the engine must continue to run. The sound of explosions rumble through the walls of the factory. You fear not for your safety. You fear for the survival of all you know.

The Trash Garden by Olivia Dunlap and Brad Sims – Playing as one of many small creatures in a world of broken things, embark on a quest to make something beautiful from the trash all around you. Interact with other trash denizens to help them grow and to help your garden grow, too.

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

Screenshot of seven games (thumbnail images with brief game description) created at the UA Little Rock CRUX Lab during Global Game Jam 2020
The UA Little Rock CRUX Lab team created seven new games for the world to enjoy during Global Game Jam 2020.
Pictured in the photo at top are Zach Bolt, Bushra Sajid, Emily Hillyard, Travis Bailey, and Loren Snow.
Share this Post: