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In a silent room of Global Game Jam participants, only the lively tune of fingers slapping keyboards was heard.

From Jan. 26–28, students gathered at the Digital Media Center furiously typing away on keyboards or drawing on tablets, using their creative prowess to make games at break-neck speeds that are uniquely their own. Teams tailored their games to this year’s theme of “Make Me Laugh.”

Global Game Jam is a virtual and in-person event where teams race to make a video game from scratch in 48 hours under a set theme. Teams have a week to prepare for the event, but during the 48 hours, they are creating the game with each other in real time.

While smaller game jams happen throughout the year, Global Game Jam brings in tens of thousands of game developers from physical and virtual locations around the world. In 2023, Global Game Jam brought in 40,000 people creating 7,600 games. The majority of games submitted are 2D and require only one player, but some are 3D and multi-player. 

Marc Aubanel, director of digital media arts and engineering, brought Global Game Jam to LSU in 2014. LSU has not served as a game jam location since 2019, due to COVID-19 restrictions, until recently.  

“The average game takes hundreds of people years to make,” Aubanel said. “This is like a sprint, 100-meter dash, when normally it’s a marathon.”

“I think it’s a really interesting creative exercise in seeing what people can do in too short a period of time,” Aubanel said.

Aubanel said the atmosphere is very quiet and almost eerie as competitors enter a state of deep concentration.

“You can hear a pin drop,” he said.

Aubanel has participated in game jams since the early ‘90s. Game jams were started after companies would submit their games to the manufacturers. Game developers couldn't continue to work on their games, but still had to be at work in case changes were requested by the manufacturers. 

“We started making video games in short timeframes for fun because we had entire game teams with nothing to do,” Aubanel said. 

Game jams are a popular exercise of creativity for game developers. The extreme time constraint causes participants to take creative shortcuts. 

“Any time you take something and you ridiculously shorten the time frame of what it would normally take, you get really interesting results because you can’t overthink it,” Aubanel said.

Computer science freshman Katherine Winchester said she was excited to have fun with her friends and create games. Her team was named “Euclides and the Boys.” Winchester said her team was especially excited for the “Make Me Laugh” theme.

“We kind of think of ourselves as the funniest people on Earth,” Winchester joked. 

Digital media arts and engineering graduate student Nyako Arana said her favorite part of the game jam is when the game clicks and comes together. Arana said she was influenced to join by her friends, who felt there was a lack of artists and an abundance of programmers involved. 

“My original background was in 2D,” Arana said. “I’ve been making the transition to 3D, and now I’m going back to 2D.”

Arana’s original idea for her team’s game involved a criminal trying to get illegal items to a checkpoint while continually being stopped by police. The player would have to make the police officer laugh in order to escape. 

Her team’s final product was a player being stopped by law enforcement and having to find their license, registration and insurance from a cluttered car in a timely manner or else they would be arrested.

While working under pressure from the short time frame, teams’ games begin to evolve creatively. As the teams’ games evolve, so do the members’ skills in game development and collaboration. 

Ashley Elliott, a digital media arts and engineering graduate student, participated in the last Global Game Jam before COVID-19. Elliott said she learned the most about software during that game jam because she was forced to cram her knowledge into a short amount of time. She said this experience would be worth it for anyone interested in getting involved.

“It helps you understand the process of making a game,” Elliot said. “You don’t have to be an artist or programmer.” 

Elliott said she was originally a biology major but ended up switching and getting her undergraduate and master's degrees in digital media art after attending the Global Game Jam in 2019. 

“It’s a very good insight on what you want to do in the future,” Elliott said.

As more companies that aren't in the business of game development start to use game engines, it's becoming more important for LSU to encourage aspiring game developers. 

Jason Jamerson, assistant professor of virtual production and immersive media, said most industries are beginning to use game engines to do things like run simulations and provide relatisic visuals for gallery exhibits. 

“Imagine if you have an asset in a movie that's a monster or a robot and it needs animation and it needs a 3D model and it needs textures and colors and it needs sound. That's exactly the same type of assets that you need in a game,” Jamerson said. 

Game jams provide a way for anyone, new or experienced in game development, to grow his or her professional skill set and learn new ways to create video games while collaborating with others.





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