APU's Games and Interactive Media Hosts Global Game Jam
Azusa Pacific University’s Games and Interactive Media program recently participated in the Global Game Jam (GGJ) for the second consecutive year, hosting a group of 40 students and gaming enthusiasts. The GGJ is the world’s largest game creation event where people come together and express themselves through video games. This year more than 48,700 people joined the jam at 934 “jam sites” in 118 countries.

“It was an amazing event. This year, we doubled the amount of participants and games we created,” said Tim Samoff, MFA, program director for the Bachelor of Arts in Games and Interactive Media. “Everyone came together and started working.They went from idea to game production very quickly, which was really fun to watch.”

Participants incorporated the theme, “Repair,” into their eight games in different ways. One group created a game called “Mending,” where players must salvage a broken relationship by moving through a house and repairing memories of their significant other. Another game, entitled, “Shipwreck in the Sky,” puts players on an alien planet with a broken spaceship where they need to avoid obstacles and aliens while finding the missing pieces of their ship.

Participants had 48 hours to complete their game, starting Friday night and ending on Sunday. This year, Samoff decided to close the event at midnight on Friday and 10 p.m. on Saturday, giving the gamers only about 20 production hours to finish their project. “It’s always a challenge to complete a creative project quickly,” he said. “On the flip side, that time pressure provides an amazing inspirational force that can spark the creative process.”

On the first night, the group split up into four-to-six-people teams, each with a programmer, artist, audio expert, and narrative writer. “The jam encourages people, no matter their primary skillset, to do other things as well,” he said. “It was great to see everyone contribute with their strengths and tackle a lot of jobs along the way.”

In addition to designing games, attendees learned from keynote speaker Ryan Green, co-founder of Numinous Games. Green is a designer of the award-winning game, “That Dragon, Cancer,” which tells the story of his son Joel who was diagnosed with cancer and the grief the family experienced. Samoff met Green through the Christian Games Developer conference and invited him to share his knowledge at the GGJ this year. “Ryan was gracious enough not just to speak to our students, but he collaborated with us as well,” Samoff said. “He shared best practices and helped groups who were struggling with tasks in their game, from coding bugs to trigonometry and game art.”

Many students in APU’s Games and Interactive Media Program participated in the event. This immersive game design degree is a confluence of story and play. Students learn to build games of all types, benefitting from a well-rounded curriculum that integrates storytelling, game mechanics, art, and sound.

Samoff said his program plans to continue hosting the GGJ at APU. “It’s an amazing community-building experience, and an opportunity to meet new people and use creativity to work together and solve a common problem,” he said.

Watch Green's keynote speech.