UVic GameDev Club fosters digital creativity

Coming this March, brace yourself for UVic GameDev’s next game jam! If you’re wondering what that means, a game jam is a 48-hour game-developing marathon where participants spend an entire weekend trying to create a brand new game. Each game jam has a theme that’s supposed to unite the participants and their respective projects, but jammers are essentially free to do whatever they want.

“[A game jam] is a great environment to get new ideas happening, to take risks, and to create something that you wouldn’t have created otherwise,” said Brandon Duncan, president of UVic GameDev.

Game jammers may choose to work in groups or set out on a solitary quest for game dev glory. But whether a lone wolf or part of the herd, jammers all seem to be pack animals at heart: collaboration, even if just cross-pollination of ideas, is an essential part of the experience. Duncan says that he spends as much time working during a game jam as he does wandering around, checking out what other people are doing.

Of course, showing up to a game jam for the first time is probably a little intimidating, especially with the technical skills involved. However, while it’s true that the majority of UVic GameDev is composed of computer science and software engineering majors, the club does have representatives from other departments like writing and history. If you go, you’ll see that game development is definitely not some exclusive pastime, like rocketry or obscure French literature. Game jams are actually jam-packed with veteran jammers, who are delighted to assist any newcomers. Bring yourself and your enthusiasm, and you’ll do just fine.

What’s best of all for game developers of any level is that game jams are an excellent environment for creativity. Unlike employees at a game company under pressure to turn a profit with whatever they manufacture, game jammers are free to experiment and see what they can come up with in the span of a weekend. There’s really nothing to lose, but there may could be plenty to gain: while it’s not unusual for a game jam’s product to never be touched again after the event, Duncan’s latest project, Friday Night Bullet Arena (set for release on Xbox One on April 30), was born at a game jam.

Aside for organizing game jams, UVic GameDev hold workshops and industry talks for prospective game developers. Every Thursday night at 6:30 p.m in the Engineering and Computer Science Building, you can find the club poring over someone’s latest project or learning math concepts useful to game developers.

UVic GameDev holds game jams twice per year. The date of the upcoming game jam is yet to be determined, but it is potentially slated for sometime in March.

If that’s not enough gaming for you, soon after that will be the Games Without Frontiers panel, as part of UVic’s larger IdeaFest running Mar. 7–12. On Saturday, Mar. 12, Games Without Frontiers will host a game jam called Games for Change: Like a Refugee in the MacLaurin Building from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Attendees will have the opportunity to build games that engage with and foster discussion of the plight of refugees fleeing the Syrian war, and to learn more about how Canadians may help Syrians adjust to life in Canada.

For more information, go to gameswithoutfrontiers.uvic.ca.

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