A social anxiety simulator, a clown challenge and a battle between two feet were among the games that dozens of current and former students invented on a two-day deadline at Global Game Jam Halifax.
For the second consecutive year Dalhousie University hosted a local edition of the self-titled “world’s largest game creation event.”
Participants with varying levels of experience had 48 hours to create a video game with the theme of “Make Me Laugh.”
Gabriel Savard participated in his second consecutive Halifax event this year and told The Signal it helped determine his career plan.
“Last year I was in my first year of computer science, so I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do yet,” Savard said. “Testing at Game Jam made me realize video game development is what I want to do.”
This year Savard and his team, called Team Team Name, created Traverse the Clownverse in which the player is a clown that tries to make a crowd laugh. As the player moves through levels it becomes increasingly harder to draw the chuckles.
At this year’s event Savard’s plan for the weekend was to add a new game to his portfolio and to simply enjoy a weekend surrounded by others who are passionate about developing video games.
“Just seeing all these people in this community is amazing, that you don’t see all the time.”
At first Owen Stuttard and a group of fellow Dal engineering alumni had no idea how to create a video game. However, by the end of the weekend, his team had birthed Foot Fighters, a multiplayer arena game in which feet shoot feathers at each other until one of the feet dies.
“Obviously there are a few things that aren’t perfect in it,” said Stuttard, whose team shares the same name as their game. “But coming out we were like, this is an actual game that is fun to play, which is wild to come from nothing.”
Novice programmers are bound to make mistakes but Stuttard’s group found a way to capitalize on their blunders.
When they created Foot Fighters they made a mistake while programming a button on an XBox remote. The error made the foot shoot swiftly to the other side of the arena. The group integrated the glitch into the final version because they liked how goofy it looked.
Stuttard said he and his team felt the pressure of the 48-hour cutoff point, but as engineering graduates tight deadlines are nothing new and Stuttard wasn’t complaining.
“This is great, this is awesome,” he said.
Brave new things
California-based Global Game Jam said it hosted events in 800 locations, across 108 countries, in 2023. The U.S. nonprofit reported that 40,000 participants created 7,600 games worldwide.
Dalhousie computer science professor Rina Wehbe is an organizer of the Halifax challenge and said this year’s event was one of the biggest in Canada, with participants designing over 40 games. She added she was happy to see people who were brave enough to learn new things.
“You don’t have to be a game designer, you don’t have to do something you’re really good at,” Wehbe said. “In fact, I suggest you do something you’ve not done before or you’re not really good at so you learn a new skill.”