Global Game Jam 2016: A Weekend of Innovation and Creativity in South Australia

The weekend Global Game Jam kicked off with 50 participants in the beautiful coastal Australian city of Adelaide. With inspiring keynote speeches from Siobhan Reddy of Media Molecule and renowned technologist Ramez Naam focusing on storytelling and creativity, it was announced that GGJ 2016’s theme was “Ritual.” Academy of Interactive Entertainment Event Organizer Emilia Chignola and Senior Programming Lecturer John Millard were at the helm, managing two floors of the campus, and not enough can be said about their hard work in keeping everything organized, welcoming, and enjoyable. Areas were designated, refreshments were served, and the schedule was on point. They set the stage and established a solid home base for these participants to let all of their awesome game ideas flourish.

Arlen Dreschler-Savage and Benjamin John Ryder working on early concepts for Transition.

Arlen Dreschler-Savage and Benjamin John Ryder working on early concepts for Transition.

Knowing you must craft your game based on the theme of Ritual, I immediately think of scenarios such as in that recent Far Cry: Primal trailer where we’re served up a bowl of blood and eyeballs for some kind of fireside ceremony. Some game jammers ended up with a completely different interpretation, focusing on rituals of conjuring up the paranormal. Check out Spookum’s Spooky House, where you take on the role of a poltergeist who is looking to make sure new residents know this house is already occupied. If you overdo the noisemaking with interactive environment items like cuckoo clocks and pianos, the residents bail in sheer terror. If you can pique their curiosity just enough to inspire them to perform the ritual to conjure you into the dimension of the living, you win.

Time was up once the moon had reached the right side of the screen.

Time was up once the moon had reached the right side of the screen.

In a great example of being proactive, sound designer Joshua Munro took the time to lug his audio gear and create a makeshift studio, which contributed to his team winning the People’s Choice award with their entry, Judgement.

Judgement made use of VR as well as original sound design, winning The People's Choice Award.

Judgement made use of VR as well as original sound design, winning The People's Choice Award.

I unfortunately missed a sound design experiment that involved a flying piece of chicken and a mic propped next to splattering tomato sauce.

Munro preps for cutting sounds, followed by chicken + tomato sauce splat recording.

Munro preps for cutting sounds, followed by chicken + tomato sauce splat recording.

The mechanics of the story outcome vary based on your choices in gameplay along with VR implementation, presenting a very impressive showcase of concept execution.

An outstanding example of story brought to light quickly was found in Escape From The Kangaroo Occultists. Comedy and action were brought to the fore as you fought to escape captivity in a dungeon full of bones, spikes, and shackles. Some helpless koalas caught in the mix are yours to rescue as well as cans of vegemite labeled “NASTY” are strewn about, providing energy (and B Vitamins!).

Dodge boomerangs and navigate obstacles to collect koalas and vegemite on your way out!

Dodge boomerangs and navigate obstacles to collect koalas and vegemite on your way out!

White Collar brought out humor reminiscent of Office Space with rituals one might practice in order to keep one’s cool under the stress of an unpleasant work environment. Another unique aspect was its setting in the '90s, providing plenty of comedic material utilizing outdated slang and Y2K references. Once you let the stress levels go too high, the environment would change, and next thing you know you and your coworkers are involved in combat involving projectile CRT monitors and wireless phones.

Once your stress meter goes high enough, an ordinary office environment transforms into this nightmare world where even the printer attacks you. 

Once your stress meter goes high enough, an ordinary office environment transforms into this nightmare world where even the printer attacks you. 

I loved being able to drop by to check on everyone’s progress, as it meant that I had the privilege of taking part in the jam but had the luxury of being able to show up and take off as I wanted. At the beginning, we had a few ideas to talk about, but all the excitement accelerated with each visit as teams were closer to bringing their ideas to reality.  That led me to the most involved I was for the tournament, during this archived Twitch interview marathon, starting off with tabletop game Disciple:

http://www.twitch.tv/globalgamejam/v/38904159

Periodically, food and drinks were served in the upper floor next to the designated sleeping area. They did a fantastic job of providing participants with all the necessities, proving that they had all grounds covered for this event.

I only wish I could write at length about each and every developer I spoke with, because in all of those conversations I was consistently met with enthusiasm and pure passion for game development. Knowing that AIE went to this length to host this year’s Global Game Jam not only sustained, but reinforced, my belief that Adelaide, South Australia has enormous potential for innovation in its game development community. The range of ideas spanned such far ends of the spectrum that there seemed to be zero limitations on what I was about to see at the end of the game jam. When it comes to gathering brilliant minds and seeing them work together to create something amazing, it really doesn’t get better than what I experienced at Global Game Jam Adelaide 2016.

 Winners of GGJ Adelaide 2016:

People's Choice: Judgement

Best Programming: Ritual of the Crate Gods

Best Art: Escape From The Kangaroo Occultists

Best Design: Blood Battle

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