Global Game Jam 2021 Lives On Despite Pandemic
ziz immelman, A&C editor
Global Game Jam is an annual convention of sorts where folks meet up at thousands of sites around the world and have but two days to make an entire short-form video game. Since 2009, gamers, writers, programmers, sound editors, voice actors and creatives of all kinds have been meeting all over the world to work together in making short video games.
I attended my first Game Jam with a friend of mine in Feb. 2020. We’re both big video game nerds, and when we learned that Glitch, a local game developer in Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis would be hosting their own site, we jumped at the opportunity.
Jammers have a couple of hours to mingle and eat together before the theme of that year’s jam is announced. Jammers then brainstorm with other folks and then pitch their idea to the group, stating which skills they need in their group unless they are working alone. Once the teams are formed, they may use the time however they wish over the next few days until it is time to submit the final game.
Global Game Jam is an incredibly important event for creatives everywhere, so it is really a blessing that it was not canceled this year. Coming in as a new jammer last year, I was incredibly nervous. I felt that I was not smart or creative enough to be of service to any of the jam groups. Also, because of what I already knew of the gaming industry, I was worried that it would not be a welcoming environment for me as a non-binary femme person.
To my surprise and delight, neither of those things were an issue for me. I almost immediately found a group that valued my talents and was willing to help me out along the way. Additionally, I found that my Game Jam site placed value in respecting individuals of all identities, even providing huge pronoun stickers we were able to put on our name badges.
With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, jammers were concerned about whether or not the event would even happen. But the folks at Global Game Jam were not willing to let a year go by without a jam. They hosted it entirely online and extended the work time to five days instead of two. With services like Zoom, Discord and Slack people were able to make their games (with the theme of “lost and found”) in a new way and even learn some new life skills during the process.
Both returning and prospective jammers are hopeful for a return to hosting the event in person next year, but we also can find comfort in knowing that the show will go on no matter what. I highly recommend attending Game Jam to anyone and everyone who thinks it sounds interesting; there will be a place for you.
You can learn more about Global Game and how to participate at GlobalGameJam.org.