K-State to host inaugural Game Jam

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The Game Development Club, Department of Computing and Information Sciences and Association of Computing Machinery are hosting K-State’s first ever Game Jam.

Participants of varying skill and experience level will compete against each other to create a game in the 48 hour time span allotted to them.

The games can excel in a variety of categories, such as Best Graphics, Best Gameplay or Best Story. Winners of the competition will win licenses for popular game development engine Unity, valued around $2,000 each, which have been donated by Unity for the event.

As is fairly common in game jams, a secret theme will be revealed at the beginning of the jam. Games developed at the jam will have to utilize this theme in some form or another, and there’s even a judging category for Best Use of Theme.

Nathan Bean, one of the jam’s organizers and coordinator for computing and information sciences, was quick to note the amount of difficulties associated with bringing the game jam to life.

“It was a challenge finding space, finding computers, finding food and – most importantly – finding the funds to make it happen,” Bean said.

To complicate matters more, the jam was being planned on a much tighter schedule than anticipated.

“When we talked about doing a game jam, we were thinking it would be something like a year out,” Bean said. “It ended up being only a month out, so it was a lot of work trying to get everything organized in that timeframe.”

Despite the difficulties, those organizing the game jam were able to reserve Fiedler Hall, and secure donations for food and T-shirts. Unity donated some licenses for its engine, and even paid for one of the meals. Bean said he was grateful for the help.

“This kind of thing doesn’t happen without a lot of help from a lot of people,” Bean said.

The jam’s open nature means that novices and talented developers will be working side by side and competing against one another. Grant Ferland, sophomore in mechanical engineering, has some basic coding knowledge and said he thinks the jam will be quite the learning experience.

“I’m expecting to learn a lot from this,” Ferland said. “It was the whole reason I signed up.”

Although this isn’t Ferland’s first experience with programming, he said his previous experiences were with basic games.

“I programmed some games in high school, but they were incredibly rudimentary,” Ferland said. “Basically just ‘Minesweeper’ and ‘Connect 4.’ That said, resources for programming are plentiful.”

Ferland’s team is comprised entirely of people with very little or no game development background.

Tara Sears, junior in architecture, has no coding or programming experience, but does have an eye for visual design.

“I have no idea how to write code, so I’ll leave that up to my teammates,” Sears said. “I’m hoping to contribute on the artistic and design side of things. Starting out will be rough. But if we can get a decent handle on making code interact with graphics, I think we’ll be alright.”

In a world full of technology, things like coding are becoming a lot more necessary. Ferland said he thinks that the gaming industry is growing as technology advances.

“I meet a lot of people going into computer science,” Ferland said. “And a lot of them want to make games. I can see a lot of interest in programs and events like this, moving forward.”

The jam will be open to the public to see the games that the participants created. There’s also a People’s Choice Award determined by the public for their favorite game. This is a way to encourage any and all students and faculty members to attend the event.

Game Jam is scheduled to kick-off at 7 p.m. in Fiedler Auditorium tonight and end at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.

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