Global Game Jam Returns to In-Person Jamming!


On Friday, February 3, 2023, Fitchburg State University became a site for the Global Game Jam once again. This year, for Fitchburg State University, the Global Game Jam returned to be in-person.

The Global Game Jam is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a game jam that takes place at the same time all over the world. It’s the world’s largest game creation event taking place in physical locations across the globe. According to their website, last year’s Global Game Jam had 33,000 jammers that created 5,860 games in 100 countries.

In a game jam, participants have a set amount of time to create a game from scratch. The time provided is usually not a lot, and in this case, just two days.

“It, in a nutshell, encapsulates the game design process, right? But in, like, a really frenetic, compressed timeline,” says Professor Johnathan Amakawa, a professor in the Game Design department who helps set up Fitchburg State University as a site for the Global Game Jam.

There’s a few differences between this game jam, and the game jam that Fitchburg State University hosts in the fall.

“The Fall Game Jam is just the school. The Global Game Jam is like an event that happens all over the world,” said Professor Amakawa.

Additionally, the Global Game Jam takes place over the course of two days, and sites pick which two days out of the week they choose to have their students jam during. The Fall Game Jam takes place over the course of a week, and all Game Design classes are suspended to allow students to work on the jam.

This is the first year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that the Global Game Jam was hosted in-person at Fitchburg State.

“It’s always better to be in the same space,” said Professor Amakawa. “That’s kind of part of the experience. That kind of camaraderie, you know? I think it’s just not really the same if you’re doing it virtual. Not that you can’t do that, but there’s something about being stuck in the same place and working with people.”

Professor Amakawa also noted that COVID-19 interrupted some game jam traditions students would come up with. When students work in the labs together during game jams in previous years, they would come up with small traditions while jamming.
“It’s not very environmentally friendly, but the wall of like bottled drinks.” said Professor Amakawa. In an attempt to stay awake for as long as possible during game jams, jammers will drink sodas and energy drinks. “So, like, people would finish bottled drinks and then just like, in [room 329], you’d see this wall of bottled drinks. That’s what Covid does, I guess. It sort of like breaks up our institutional memory.”

There were a few hiccups when it came to the Global Game Jam this year, though. Conlon Hall was supposed to remain open so jammers could utilize the school’s computers. Instead, jammers couldn’t get access to the third floor of Conlon Hall. Even if they got into the third floor, the lights were off and all the doors were locked.

Despite these roadblocks, students were able to create some pretty fantastic games. Three teams were formed and all of the games that came out of each team used this year’s theme, “roots”, as a starting point for their games. Each game went in very different directions with the games they created. These games were called “Root Route”, “Sustenance”, and “The Golden Gilfs”.

If you have the time, you can play these games yourself by accessing Fitchburg State University’s Global Game Jam site page.