In “game jams”, enthusiasts develop video games in record time

In one of the rooms at the Experimental Station, Porte de Pantin, things are going strong this Saturday. There are conversations in the background of electronic music and the soundtrack of video games, in the bright room of computer screens or almost. It becomes coffee and chouquette. Goal: have a playable demo of the video game before the end of the weekend.

In this third place, 35 people divided into five groups participate in the Global Game Jam. Like 35,000 other registered participants around the world, they are trying to make a video game in just forty-eight hours. This international event has existed for fifteen years and offers developers from all over the world the opportunity to face this type of challenge in a similar period, traditionally the last weekend in January.

The weekend began on Friday, at 6pm, with a “creative meeting”, with discussions and exercises “inspired by laughter yoga”. Above all, just break the ice, find the first ideas on the Global Game Jam 2024 theme (“Make me laugh”) and form groups, because most participants don’t know each other before. Then it’s two days of rushing. No one is taken hostage and returning home is allowed, but they are even provided with a room to sleep in.

A playful art

This is the second year that the Circle of Galactic Orbit (COG) has hosted a game jam. The group describes itself as a “playful and digital art association”. “I’m passionate about coding without having done anything until now and, above all, about digital art”, explains Maxime Richard, treasurer and organizer of the event. In the world of video games, we develop these intentions. »

According to his own words, his vision as an assistant director – he also participated ten times in the 48 Hour Film Project, the same short film event – prepared him for the role of pilot during this game jam. “My game is to organize the game, like a game master”, he slips. I also planned to create a little paper game to keep me busy during downtime. »

Get high without the pressure

Just before 4 p.m., COG volunteers move between groups to test the first playable segments of the game. Just to make sure there are no slip-ups before making something playable the next day at 7pm. “Friday is a hippie atmosphere. Saturday, we see the first tensions appear”, observes Maxime Richard.

“Obstacles can be a drunk guy, a can of beer…” “Did you see the movie with JCVD ​​​​and Dennis Rodman? » At one of the tables, we are in the middle of a brainstorming session. A team of six people develops Zinzinbirinto, a collection of crazy minigames. “We are very good,” says Gabriel, a developer who graduated two years ago. It’s forty-eight hours of getting high with no pressure. » Several participants have functions related to their real profession, but there are also pure amateurs. “Last year, we had a parliamentary collaborator who was passionate about video games”, guarantees Maxime Richard, for example.

“It’s the project management that is intense”

There game jam organized by COG is also open to board games and hybrid games. The bravest groups are free to create their own controllers or arcade machines. One of the groups, formed by a fair game collective and an arcade machine recycler, takes advantage of the Experimental Station workshop to develop an interactive story using various levers and buttons. Upstairs, Etienne models a turtle, next to a bedroom. “We are tired, anxious, but everything is fine,” he smiles. For him, the biggest challenge is not technical. “There are issues of time and organization that we try to anticipate, but with which we still have difficulties”, he describes. With the restrictions, it is more the project management than the development that is intense. »His group must, for example, communicate remotely with a musician.

Sunday night is time to render and test the games. Projects can also be reproduced in Global Game Jam website. In addition to amateur and fun projects, game jam they have also become a relatively widespread exercise in video game schools or business incubators. Some commercial successes have already seen the light of day in this type of event, such as Heavenly in 2018. But above all, it’s an opportunity to have fun for forty-eight hours around a common passion. “Before being a competition for technicians, it is a human adventure”, summarizes Maxime Richard.

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