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One of the teams at Northeastern’s Global Game Jam hub.

Northeastern University recently welcomed more than 170 aspiring game-makers to campus for this year’s Global Game Jam, the world’s largest game jam event. Students from Northeastern and other universities, alumni, and local professionals all gathered in the Snell Library Digital Media Commons for an entire weekend to collaborate, inspire, and learn. While the first Global Game Jam was held in January 2009 with 1,600 game creators in 23 countries, this year featured an impressive 42,792 jammers registered in 803 jam sites located in 108 countries, and a grand total of 8,597 games created from scratch! Northeastern University was proud to be an official site for 2018 — for the seventh year in a row.

“As the largest Global Game Jam site in New England, Northeastern University is solidifying itself as both an excellent academic institution and a hub for the local game development industry,” explained Seven Siegel, an Adjunct Lecturer here at Northeastern and the Executive Director for Global Game Jam. “For many first-year students around the world, Global Game Jam is the first time during their college careers they make a game from start-to-finish. I’ve heard time and time again that this gives students confidence in their own abilities to succeed throughout their college careers, and, in Northeastern’s case, their professional game development co-ops.”

The mission of Global Game Jam is to stimulate innovation, experimentation, and collaboration in games. The annual event typically begins on a Friday afternoon and kicks off with video keynotes and advice from leaders in the game development industry. This year, Monty Sharma, Managing Director of MassDiGI, was the on-site keynote speaker at Northeastern. Sharma is a respected game industry and technology professional, and before joining MassDigI was co-founder and general manager of Vivox, a voice chat service provider in the games industry with key relationships to EASonyUbisoftNexonBigpoint and many others. 

Monty Sharma. Photo Courtesy of MassDigi.

The jam then formally begins after an announcement of the year’s theme, kept secret until the very last second. This year’s theme was “transmission,” which provided enough direction for newer jammers without being too constraining for the more experienced team members. Unveiling the theme without any notice for the game-makers certainly adds an extra layer of complication to the building and designing process, but each year, teams embrace the challenge and use it as an opportunity to get extremely creative and think outside-the-box…in a fun, low-stakes environment!

“The most important thing about having the game jam right here at Northeastern is that it gives students an opportunity to make a game in an environment where there are deadlines, but there’s no real pressure. The reality is that oftentimes, people actually have to make games in very un-playful atmospheres,” said Brandon Sichling, a Visiting Lecturer in Game Design. “What’s so great about having it at Northeastern is that it positions our program as the center of game design studies in Boston. We’ve had students from a bunch of different programs and campuses at our jam, which exposes our students to different academic cultures and disciplines.”

For Northeastern Game Design students, the Global Game Jam is a great opportunity to put into practice some of the skills they have been learning in class.

“It’s also an opportunity to pass down some knowledge and tips to younger students jamming for their first time. Every time I participate in this event I learn something new,” added Northeastern student Ryan Maloney, who is studying Computer Science and Game Design and took a lead role in organizing the event. “The Global Game Jam allows students to create games that can become valuable portfolio pieces. Last year, my team and I made a game that we then took to MassDiGI’s Game Challenge event to pitch to a panel of judges. Through that, I landed the opportunity to co-op with MassDiGI through its Summer Innovation Program. So, the jam can be incredibly valuable to students looking to learn new skills or create new projects to help in their co-op search.”

Ryan points out that this was also the first year that the Northeastern Game Development Club took such a large role in helping to organize the event.

“As Treasurer of the club, I was acting Site Organizer for the Northeastern jam site,” he explained. “With assistance from the other club board members and several faculty members, we were incredibly happy with the outcome of the jam. As a club we want to do our best to help and encourage other students to learn new skills, make games, and get game co-ops as well as we can, and the jam helps all of those goals. We’re incredibly excited to continue to help organize the jam every year, and to try and keep improving it in the future!”

Each year, it is incredibly fun and impressive to see what the talented participants can achieve together in just 48 hours. To see the games made at Northeastern’s hub, click here and check them out on YouTube. To see all of the games from the Global Game Jam, browse here. Check out some photos from the event, below!