Make a game in record time

This year’s edition of the Malta Game Jam will take place at the University of Malta Campus over January 29, 30 and 31. We spoke to some of the members of the Institute for Digital Games – the organisers of the Malta ‘chapter’ of the global game jams – about how the local jam has evolved over the years and what this edition’s international participants – Philippa Warr and game design duo ‘We Are Muesli’– will bring to the table

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
25 January 2016, 9:30am
Marathon time: Shot from last year’s edition of the Malta Global Game Jam • Photo by Rebecca Elizabeth Kemp
Marathon time: Shot from last year’s edition of the Malta Global Game Jam • Photo by Rebecca Elizabeth Kemp
Now in its third edition, the Malta Game Jam is a response to its international counterparts all around the world, and will this year be taking place from January 29 to 31 at the Institute of Digital Games, University of Malta campus – the traditional site of the 48-hour marathon game creation session, the ‘jam’ may be seen on one level as “a bit of fun, really” as Assistant Lecturer at the Institute of Digital Games Costantino Oliva says, but it also arguably leads to a healthier culture of video game creation locally.

Describing the nature of a game jam, Oliva said: “You convene with the other jammers at the Institute of Digital Games, University of Malta; following that, you are delivered a theme. It can be a short phrase, or a sound, and you are usually kind of thrown off by it. As outlandish the theme is, people start pitching game ideas, and those are usually as non-conventional as it gets.”

“Following that, he added, “it’s developing time!”

“Anything can happen as you go along, and usually the finished games are nothing like the thing you started with.”

This supposedly unconventional way of developing really fosters creativity, Oliva said, adding that some of the games conceived at the Malta Global Game Jam in the past have been successfully funded on Kickstarter, or have received attention from international press.

Ashley Davis, Research Support Officer at the Institute of Digital Games is glad to see that the Game Jam community has grown over time.

“When we started out, a lot of the enthusiasm came from the 48-hour Game Jam being a really new thing. Not too many people knew what to expect. With every year the core group of experienced Jammers has grown and there are more people who are keen to get involved, either as participants or on the organisational side of things,” Davis said, adding that the reach of Game Jams in Malta is “now more international than ever”, and that one of the best things is watching as local game developers pool their skills with participants who travel to Malta from all over Europe especially for the Game Jam.

This year, international participants will include Philippa Warr and game design duo ‘We Are Muesli’.

Philippa Warr is a respected name in games journalism - she’s a staff writer for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, and also a contributor to Wired, the Guardian, PC Gamer and other publications. In her keynote speech, she’ll be talking about dealing with the gaming press, and discussing techniques for raising the profile of a game on an international platform.

Meanwhile, We are Müesli will be organising a workshop focusing on storytelling in games. They have previously talks on the subject in places like the European Game Developers Conference in Cologne, Germany.

“That should bring some inspiration to jammers, and also a new, diverse expertise to the table,” Oliva said.

In fact, on the subject of how the Game Jam and the Institute is helping foster a culture of digital game creation in Malta, Daniel Vella – one of the lecturers at the Institute – said that while the local grassroots game development industry remains “in its infancy”, “We’re at the stage where some promising games are being produced, both by current and former IDG students and by the wider Maltese game dev community. The challenge now is to put the local scene on the map - to go out and show the world what we have – and this is why Warr’s keynote comes at precisely the right time for the local dev scene as they strive to grow beyond the limited local market,” Vella added.

The Malta Global Game Jam will take place from January 29 to 31 at the Institute for Digital Games, University of Malta. For more information and registration details, log on to: maltagamejam.com

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...