There’s a reason games sell so well at Christmas. Months of cold weather and grey skies mean plenty of time indoors. Brilliant for anyone who enjoys a relaxed day at the console. But while you’re whiling away your winter weekends with a Wii, spare a thought for the clever people behind the games; these are the bright minds and creative talents who put great effort into making your grey days more exciting. And, thanks to a local videogame development event, they may be a lot closer than you think!
The Global Game Jam is an international forum for anyone interested in game development. Running since 2009, it takes place in actual physical locations (in Cyprus it’s being held at the Kinx Esports Arena, Nicosia), and participants collaborate to create either a video or non-digital game. “You’ll rapidly prototype game designs and inject new ideas to help inspire and grow the global game industry,” say organisers. “We ask participants to create a game from beginning to end in a prescribed time (usually 48 hours), a brief time span that’s meant to help encourage the creative thinking which results in small but innovative and experimental games.”
In the past, many of the Game Jam creations have been further developed, gaining worldwide commercial success, so there’s room for the enthusiast to make their mark on the world. Rallying to a central theme, collaborators are encouraged to “try out new ideas.” And, in 2020, for the first time ever, Cyprus will be participating in this Jam.
The event begins at 5pm on Friday and runs until 5pm on Sunday, and sees teams all over the world compete to develop a stunning game (or the basics thereof) and take the grand prize. And while foreign competitors can turn their hand to any sort of game they wish, analogue or digital, here on the island the focus will be purely on video game development.
“We’re focusing on videogames,” says co-organiser Elisavet Kiourti, a videogame development specialist and professor of videogames and linguistics at the University of Cyprus. “It’s really important for us to start with this field,” she adds, “because we have so many people on the island who are very talented in this area, but just don’t have the opportunities they would elsewhere.
“In the 2020s, tech will become all-important,” she continues. “It’s a tool for making our lives infinitely better across all dimensions: education, health, everyday life. And while other countries know that gaming and game development are hot topics – there are gaming universities where you can study esports, gaming culture, linguistics in videogames – here in Cyprus, we’re a bit behind the times. There are so many people who go abroad and study these fields but come back to a land without opportunity. You’ve got top gaming designers who end up Photoshopping wedding invitations; that needs to change!”
This change is what the organisers are aiming for with the Jam – not only creating opportunities for new collaborations and recognition on the global stage, but also the chance to participate in new projects. “Yes, this is a worldwide event which gives participants the chance to develop and test their games in front of an international audience. But the reason we’ve started our arm of the GGJ is more about pooling creative minds, developing the local talent, and seeing what we can build from there,” says Elisavet. “It’s important to us that people shouldn’t have to leave their country to gain a job in this field, but can stay here and find rewarding employment.”
To this end, participation in the GGJ is completely free, with complimentary snacks and drinks provided on site. “We really want to allow all social and economic classes to take part,” says Elisavet. “It’s very important that everyone is included – not just the elite who have the means to study gaming abroad. And though our spaces are rapidly filling up, we’d be thrilled to meet anyone who’s interested in coming along. Even if you have absolutely no background in game development, there’s so much to be learnt and so many opportunities in this field for someone who’s interested.” Who knows, next year, it could be your videogame that keeps us all entertained through the cold days of winter!
The Cyprus Global Gaming Jam
At Kinx Esports Arena, Nicosia, from January 31 to February 2. Everyone is welcome, and though spaces are limited, spectators are encouraged. Entrance is free. For more information, visit the Facebook page ‘Cyprus 2020 Global Game Jam’ or https://globalgamejam.org/