This year Global Game Jam (GGJ) game development hackathon was held for the 10th time in the world and for the second time in Armenia. GGJ is not a competition, it has no winners. Instead, it encourages open cooperation of participants, experimentation and innovation. It was held on January 26-28, as usual, during the last weekend of January. In Armenia it was held at American University of Armenia. The organizers of GGJ Armenia were Noor Games, AUA EPIC and UITE.
This year the registrations were about twice more. As organizers, we were thinking how to make the event more exciting and effective this time. And we came up with several new ideas that we applied to the evet:
- We have invited experienced and well known specialists of Armenian game development industry to participate in the event as mentors. They had to help the jammers in the stage of game idea brainstorming as well as during the implementation of their ideas. Therefore, we had game designers, artists, 3D modelers and programmers as mentors.
- We have organized several tech talks right before the event started. This was a new element to stimulate knowledge sharing. Another reason for these talks was that we knew that this year we were having very experienced programmers who were participating in the event for the first time to try themselves in game development. Therefore, that was some kind of a kick start for them.
- This year we have organized game development job fair during GGJ, as we knew that lots of companies and individuals would come together and it would be a good opportunity for the companies to find good employees and for individuals to find a job that would be interesting, challenging and creative.
And when the day came we hosted about 65 jammers and about 15 mentors. People came from different organizations as jammers and as mentors such as: ARLOOPA, TUMO, Frismos, M.In.D, TSD, MFM studio, Rockbite Games, Only Games, CR logics, Plexonic, and, of course, jammers and co-organizers from Noor Games. Compared to the first year the event grew more than twice, as last year we had about 30 participants. This was so exciting that the event became more popular and could serve the community.
In Armenia there have been game developer meetups, but they have not been persistent, i.e. they have been organized several times but not continuously. In Armenia game developer community is really small, but it has grown enough big to be called a community and not just singularities. As a consequence, the community needs networking, needs communication and learning, needs new ideas. And as such, there was no platform in Armenia to satisfy these needs. And looks like GGJ has become popular not just because it is fun, but also because it covers some needs of the community. This has resulted us to think of GGJ not only as a game jam, but also as a platform for Armenian game developers’ community to satisfy the following needs:
- Meeting new people, networking in gaming industry
- Technical and market knowledge sharing, i.e. learn-study-teach concept
- Checking existing teams’ capabilities and finding out weak spots that need to be improved
- Forming new teams and making new products for the global market
- For those who have never tried game development, this is a good environment to experience that fun and enjoy the help of peers and mentors. Later it might turn out to be their dream job, as it happened to me 5 years ago when I first started to work as a game developer.
- Experimenting with new game ideas
- Job fair
- Making game development community bigger and stronger
Returning back to the event: during that intense 48 hours teams have been working on 12 games one of which was a board game. The board game called Salvos (from Latin – survival) was one of the most notable games of the event. During the pitching phase two game designer mentors have immediately identified that idea as the one with a very good potential and they were actively and coherently advising the team to make that board game more successful. This board game was created by the team that formed right during the event. Two guys who were participating in the Global Game Jam Armenia 2017 came with their 2 other friends and during the pitching phase they were joined with two other guys forming a team of 6 people. Within 48 hours this team not only created Salvos, but also created a multiplayer video game too, which was also very fun to play. All the other games created were video games in different genres such as platformers, quests, puzzle games and so on.
At the end of the event we have conducted a survey to understand if the event was successful, what we needed to improve and what we had done well. Though the responses were mostly positive, we were lucky to get some suggestions on how to improve the next jam. As you might assume, one of the questions was “Would you recommend your friend to participate GGJ Armenia 2019?”. And we were extremely happy to see that more than 94% of survey participants (34 people) answered positively about recommending their friends.
This is already a strong signal that event is really going to become more popular and we, as organizers of the event, need to be more responsible and careful to make this event happen every year more effective and cover more needs of the growing community.
For now we need to thank all the jammers, as they were brave enough to put them in that extreme conditions to create new games game and they have not been scared of failing. We also need to express our gratitude to all the mentors, as without them this event would not be such an amazing experience. Also special thanks to our co-organizers, volunteers and all the supporters of the event, in other words to all the people who made it possible to happen. See you on GGJ Armenia 2019.
Author: Narek Aghekyan, Founder and CEO at Noor Games