Student designers face off in global game-making battle

‘Monochrome’ and ‘Firefly’ are two games College students created with those from NJIT. (Photo courtesy of Justin Dilks)

By Brendan McGrath
Correspondent

An intense combination of creativity and technical knowledge, along with the determination to become the best game designers around, brought many of the College’s students and alumni to Global Game Jam 2011.

Beginning the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 28, seven teams of game designers from the College and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) were given 48 hours to develop video games from scratch.

Global Game Jam 2011 allowed some of the school’s best talent to develop even further. Five games were developed at the NJIT site alone.

According to its website, the competition’s only guideline was to incorporate this year’s theme — extinction. NJIT hosted for the two colleges, but they competed against game designers from sites around the globe, according to Justin Dilks, who participated in the competition.

“Part of the great appeal of the event is that there are dozens of locations all around the world, all of them working towards the same objective,” Dilks, a junior interactive multimedia major, said.

Dilks described how by joining forces, game designers at all levels, from freshmen to alumni, can experience the opportunities for networking and unequaled hands-on experience that Game Jam provides.

Passionate designers who want to create the video games of the future face many barriers that are difficult to overcome individually, Dilks explained.

Through this competition, designers are brought together and given the tools and the forum that will help them to succeed, he said.

“I think part of the goal of the Game Jam is to introduce people to the process of game making, and to see ideas come to fruition in a relatively short period of time,” Dilks said.

Students brainstorm for the games they will enter in the Game Jam competition. (Photo courtesy of Justin Dilks)


Though it only lasts two days, the competition produces lasting results. Not only were the participants able to form meaningful relationships and learn from working with each other, but some of the finished products were actually very marketable.

“Anyone who thinks you can’t make a game in one weekend should play ‘Monochrome’ or ‘Firefly,’ made by teams of (the College) and NJIT students, and think again,” Vin St. John, a May 2010 graduate of the College’s computer science program, said. He joined forces with current students to compete in the Game Jam.

“Monochrome” and “Firefly” are perhaps the two most complete products of the competition and represent huge achievements by the participants who designed them in only two days time, St. John said.

“Paradigm Islands,” which Dilks worked on, involves rival island nations that were charged with the task of destroying each other, as operated by two opposing gamers. Dilks described how the experience of designing it helped him in unexpected ways.

“A freshman computer science major named Glen Oakley taught me a lot about how graphics and Java work together, and without having the Game Jam I probably would have never even met him,” Dilks said.

Though not everyone will go on to create the next Madden or Halo video game, the College is producing designers of a high caliber.

“Many members of the (College) community probably don’t realize it,” St. John said. “But (the College) has become a go-to school for budding game developers.”