Veteran jammer Rocco Ricciardi and his team present their game, "I AM," during the NJIT Game Jam.
They slept little. They had big fun. And they were schooled in the fine art of how to make a video game.
This weekend, more than 100 video-game lovers gathered in Weston Hall for the NJIT Game Jam. The gamers divided into teams on Friday and, by late Sunday afternoon, had created 14 functional video games. The games maybe downloaded at http://globalgamejam.org/2015/jam-sites/new-jersey-institute-technology/games
Most of the jammers were NJIT students but some were alums and others were students from local colleges. They pooled their talents and worked in teams to build games under extreme deadline pressure – they only had the weekend to work, which explains the sleeplessness, and the big fun.
Each year, the jam has a different theme around which participants must create their games. The theme for this year’s jam was one of life’s eternal questions: "What do we do now?"
The jammers ran with the theme, creating 3-D and 2-D games that had cool concepts, quirky content and cute characters who used their skills to outwit monstrous predators in the form of molten balls of lava or falling pyramids of ice. One team designed a game, “Mission Control,” to be played while wearing a virtual-reality headset called “Oculist Rift.” When a player fastened the headset over his or her face, they were immersed into the shifting 3-D landscapes of the game.
Glenn Goldman, the director of the School of Art and Design, said this weekend’s jam was a smashing success. There were 126 game jam sites in the United States, three of which were in New Jersey and two in New York City, he said. NJIT had the 15th largest site in the U.S., with 105 jammers. NJIT also had the sixth-largest jam site hosted by a public university. Internationally, the global game jam had 28,851 registered participants at 518 sites in 78 countries; more than 5,000 games were produced worldwide.
The NJIT jam is also growing in popularity. In 2014, the NJIT jam produced seven games and had 88 registered jammers, Goldman said. “This year we had a 19% increase in the level of participation and had twice as many games developed,” he said.
The jam also had a good mix of design majors and IT majors, Goldman added, and was welcoming to all levels of students. Five freshmen who major in digital design participated all weekend, joining a team and learning from older jammers as well as from NJIT professors.
Tiffany Barnes was one of those freshmen. She worked with a team that created a clever game called “I Am.” She did the concept sketches and the texturing for the game. At first, she was anxious to work with upper- classmen, she said, some of whom have done the jam three or four years in a row. But the professors and the older students encouraged her and helped her relax. And that had a positive result.
“I want to work one day in the video-game industry so the jam was an eye-opener for me,” said Tiffany. “It gave me taste of what it’s like to work on a team and produce a game. I learned so much and had a blast and I can’t wait for next year’s jam.”
The game jam kicked off Friday evening with welcome addresses given by NJIT Provost Fadi Deek, Associate Provost and CIO Dave Ullman and Goldman. The jam was coordinated and managed by Andrzej Zarzycki, associate professor in the College of Architecture and Design (COAD).
Taro Narahara, assistant professor in COAD, gave a presentation on how to develop games in line with a theme. Marc Sequeira, assistant director of Information Technology, discussed past games that were successfully created at NJIT jams. And Martina Decker, an assistant professor in COAD, helped students come up with ideas for games and consulted them throughout the weekend.
John Martin, a senior who majors in digital design, is a veteran jammer. This was his third jam in three years. Asked why he keeps coming back for more game creation, John, who admitted to being exhausted after a sleepless weekend, said this. "It's a fun weekend. You take pride in finishing a game that works," he added. "You network with students with other majors and with professors. It's creative and exciting and after I graduate I want to work in graphic design for the TV or film industries. So all this game jam experience will help me when I interview for jobs."
By Robert Florida (firstname.lastname@example.org)