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Global Game Jam 2014 Recap – Lisbon Style

GlobalGameJam2013_Welcome

Hi there. Let me start this by introducing myself in a way that does not look like I am bragging about my work or that I am trying to be this extremely humble Japanese type of guy. Hummm… Well…. er… this is quite hard actually, how do I do this?… Whatever.

All you need to know is that my name is Filipe, I make games for a living and I live in Portugal. If you want more details just check the links at the bottom of the article. Oh, and another important thing, before I start talking about what is written on the title, I have to let you know that these articles will be coming in every month or so… sort of. It depends on… things. Well, nevermind that, on with the show article!

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It is a cold Sunday afternoon, the sun is shining and the clouds filled with rain are gone. After wandering around in my car in narrow streets for what must have been a good 30 minutes, I find myself lost. I could have sworn that the next turn would get me there. But this is Lisbon after all, and in Lisbon narrow, long, and winding streets are part of what makes the city fun, except when you want to get to the FabLab where the Global Game Jam 2014 is taking place! Who designed these streets anyway? Was all this stuff just made up as they went along in some forgotten medieval age by dudes who had no access to the written word? Oh wait!… yep, it was.

I park somewhere to check the gps on my phone, the place is called Mercado do Forno do Tijolo, it says I am already there!? What? It’s right around the next corner? AWESOME! All these years playing FPS games are finally paying off, my sense of direction is so fine tuned that I get myself to where I need to be without even thinking about it! Or just like a CEO on a Square-Enix stakeholder meeting on the decision for whether to buy Eidos or not, I got lucky – but I like to think it is due to the former rather than the later.

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I manage to get to the entrance of FabLab. I stop and look a bit around just to check my surroundings and see if I got the place right. It says FabLab on the side of a big door so it’s the place alright. But I also notice, a bit further to the left on an access ramp, 4 homeless men in rags and covered with blankets, sitting and drinking. They all give me this long hard look. I don’t think they are here for the Global Game Jam, and the time is quarter to 5. The submission of all games around the world ends at 5pm and all the teams are rushing to submit their game.

After 48 hours of coding everyone looks tired but happy. This is, after all, the purpose of a Global Game Jam, to create a game in 48 hours. The rules are simple: usually everyone gathers in a location, it can be a university, a company, a simple place like somebody’s house or even a hidden stupid location right in the middle of stupid Lisbon! Anyway, the servers are being hammered and apparently nobody can submit anything. It is a good thing, they say, lot’s of game submissions. It’s also a bad thing, I say, as the servers should be able to handle all these connections.

The theme this year was: We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are … Huuu, that’s some deep stuff! But it should do the trick as this kind of premise always makes your imagination take off and fly, so kudos for the organizing team for not deciding on basic themes like “the animal kingdom,” “space,” or even things like “the next FPS/RPG/MMO,” or something along the lines of that sort of thing.

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Being in a country where the word “crisis” has been thrown around a lot since 2008 when the market crash happened, you would think that Crytek would have made it big over here banking enormously with sales of their PC hit Crysis, but that isn’t the case. This is Portugal, and if the pirating of video games was still a problem until 2008, factoring in all the tax cuts made by the government and high unemployment rate – I bet it got much worse.

The question of why people are so used to pirating games as if it was a normal thing is a subject for another article (Possibly a topic for my next article) this means that unfortunately people have more free time in their hands, and in my honest opinion, it also means we have more teams and people at the Global Game Jam Lisbon than in past events. I might be wrong but my ego usually likes to think that I am right. So I am right. Unless you just read the Gamasutra article about the rise and fall of the Portuguese videogames industry, then you might think I am wrong.

So, my good friends and organizers of the GGJ Lisbon Pedro Ângelo and Kyriakos Koursaris tell me that there were 10 games officially submitted. Besides running the show, these two guys also invited me and a couple of friends as representatives of companies that actually develop games so that we could discuss each game with its creators.

The games are on the website for you to check, but here is the final list:

  • A Byte of Love – 2D plarformer about 2 files who fall in love and try to escape being deleted
  • B Platform – Help a shadow find it’s body
  • Dialogical Zebra – An analogic game with cards for two players
  • Geojoy – You must play together with others and help herd things around
  • Jungle Heels – Two women fight to the death over a pair of shoes
  • Moonwalker Simulator on a Bathroom – Unfinished concept about an anorexic woman becaming something else
  • My Perspective – How to be a photographer
  • Perdido – Find and match different shapes of objects
  • PInk doG – A pig who thinks he is a dog
  • RGB Dream – Float away in a dream and keep floating

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Around 6pm and soon after everyone had submitted their game, then developers took the stage to present their take on this year’s subject and show what they did for the last 48 hours. The games were played, people asked questions and the veterans stroke their beards and gave long and incisive advice (at least I did, since I have a beard). It was all in good fun and everyone had a good time, except maybe for the hobos sitting outside. Yeah, I bet they would love to be able to come inside, play some of the games and drink some coffee. Well, maybe just coming inside would be great for them.

But I am not here to write about each of these games, the hobos or to tell you about the impact they might have on the overall landscape of video games, unfortunately.

I am here to say that the Jam itself matters more that the games themselves. It is the sum of it all rather than each individual thing. It is the fact that a bunch of people, individuals, and teams met for an entire weekend to develop video games. They won’t have any big reward at the end or realize the possibility of closing a deal with a publisher. They probably won’t even finish the game they made, although I hope some of them might. However, they will learn and share knowledge with each other. They will have an experience of crafting interactive entertainment in a short period of time and this type of experience is priceless.

 

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I do hope that these teams that were formed for the jam move on to bigger things and create a complete video game by themselves. I do believe that this will happen. Maybe only one or two teams will do this and maybe not the teams that were in the GGJ but I bet some of the members will. And this is very important for the creation of a videogame industry here in Portugal. Perhaps that is the subject for my next article.

Lisbon / January 2014
Filipe Duarte Pina

Filipe is the co-founder of Nerd Monkeys where he works developing videogames. He is also a member of the board on the Portuguese Society for the Sciences of Videogames (SPCV).

www.nerdmonkeys.pt
filipeduartepina.wordpress.com

Editor’s Note: This is the first of an ongoing series of editorials where we allow creators of video games talk about their works, ongoing issues in the industry, or current events like the Global Game Jam.

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Filipe is the co-founder of Nerd Monkeys, a Portuguese company where he works developing videogames.