National gaming event comes to Syracuse University’s iSchool

The computer programmer for Syracuse University Library, Jeremy Morgan, is keeping this weekend open to participate in the world’s largest game creation event.

“I think it will be fun,” Morgan said. “I’ve had it blocked out on my calendar for months now.”

The event is the Global Game Jam, happening Jan. 25-27. As a participant, Morgan will have 48 hours to create a board or video game with a group of students and members of the Syracuse community in the basement of Hinds Hall. 

Syracuse is just one of many locations worldwide where creative minds will have 48 hours to create games that incorporate a universal theme. Participants can register for the event through the School of Information Studies site for $10. Registration is limited to the first 50 people who sign up, according to the Syracuse Global Game Jam website.

Although Morgan thinks the 48-hour time limit for the event will be a challenge, he said he thinks it will be a good way to make sure he produces a finished game.

“I usually dabble in designing video games on my own,” Morgan said. “It will be a good way to actually finish something.”

Anyone 18 and older can register for the event, even if they have no technical background, said iSchool professor Scott Nicholson. Nicholson is also director of the Syracuse Global Game Jam site.

Nicholson said participants can develop both tabletop and digital games, and both are equally supported by the challenge. This is the third Global Game Jam with a location in Syracuse, he said.

“Many participants have only played games,” Nicholson said. “So it is a chance for participants to see the game design, prototyping and play-testing process in a short period of time.”

The event will kick off at 3 p.m. Jan. 25, when the international theme for the game development will be revealed. A brainstorming session will follow, Nicholson said. Participants are encouraged to form teams if they have not done so already.

He said the Global Game Jam gives students a chance to work with students from other colleges and community members.

“One of our goals in running the event is to bring together local participants interested in game development and to develop our Syracuse game-creation community,” he said.

He is also working with a group of doctoral students from the iSchool to organize the event. Angela Usha Ramnarine-Rieks is a doctoral student in the iSchool who is helping to plan the event.

Groups at the event will be challenged to melt various talents into an entertaining product in a short period of time, Ramnarine-Rieks said.

“It’s about rewarding the unique characteristics of everybody’s games,” Ramnarine-Rieks said. “Everybody leaves with a sense of accomplishment.”

Another student helping to organize the event is Thomas Witholt, a doctoral student in the English and textual studies department.

He said the theme is usually not determined until right before the event. This year’s theme probably won’t be known until Friday.

Witholt said the event taught him a lot about project management and delegating tasks within groups.

“You might get to exercise different skills that you weren’t expecting to use going into the event,” Witholt said.

Descriptions and images of some of the games, including Witholt’s, are available on the Syracuse Global Game Jam website.

Witholt said there is an awards ceremony on the last day of the event where participants congratulate each other and test the games they developed. This year the ceremony will be at 1 p.m. Sunday in the café in Hinds.

Said Witholt: “It’s more about sparking creativity and making connections than it is about winning something.”


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