The concept of ‘jamming’ is always associated to the world of music, but not anymore! In a novel and revolutionary initiative by Mindbox and NASSCOM, school students between ages 10-18 years were given the opportunity to express their thoughts and ideas by creating games.
The event aptly titled ‘GameJam Titans’ seeks to really educate and give an opportunity to school kids to create games using any open source software, being platform agnostic in nature. But, it doesn’t stop there! The winners from all the six cities (Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Pune, Mumbai and New Delhi) will get to travel to the premiere gaming event – NASSCOM game developers conference – in Pune this November.
The first city on the list was Chennai and the city kids really turned out in huge numbers for the event. In all 70 schools participated comprising of nearly 350 kids, with the youngest participants being mere sixth graders and the oldest in their final year of school.
Speaking to AnimationXpress.com Mindbox CEO Rishi Khemka said: “GameJam Titans is a place where kids will get to showcase their work to experts from the industry, and it also gives them an opportunity to become young entrepreneurs, who create things from the scratch and then make a pitch to the jury on why should their game deserve to win. It’s a one-of-a-kind initiative and I am really pleased with the response it is getting from all the six cities.”
The theme for the city of Chennai in the school category was ‘education’ or ‘truth’, which meant the children, had to create a game revolving around either one of the two themes. The theme was given a week prior and students were given a free tutorial in using Unity – open source software – to create simple model characters, terrains, cities, etc.
“I believe this initiative by Mindbox and NASSCOM will act as a catalyst for young children to consider gaming as not just a pass-time or relaxing activity, but also as a serious career option. When we were young we never had such exposure to the world of gaming, but things are changing now,” added NASSCOM gaming forum’s chair Rajesh Rao.
The participants started trickling in at around 9:00 am and slowly the auditorium of Hindustan University was bustling with energy. The jury for Chennai comprised of experienced hands in the gaming industry like: Gregg Barnett, creative director at Dhruva Interactive; Joel M Johnson, founder of digikhel and Anand Ramachandran, director of design at Tiny Mogul Games.
Post the small inauguration ceremony; the children were split into batches of 10-12 teams each and the jury went across to each group beginning from number one to number 70. The young minds were really excited and showcased their hardwork to the curious judges with a lot of pride and joy.
One of the jury members, Joel said: “I can’t believe my eyes that these are just fifth and sixth grade kids who have made these wonderful games. It’s really heartening to see that some of these kids have travelled for nearly two hours just to be here and showcase their game.”
With a theme like ‘education’ or ‘truth’, most children worked on the theme of education, which involved things like saving the environment, quiz formats, mathematics, alphabets and other such similar options.
“As part of the jury my job is to judge each game on its merit, but I also know that these are school children at the end of the day and have managed to create these games only within a week’s time, so I am more interested in judging them on the parameters of what kind of mechanics have they used, whether the game is enjoyable to play and if the team has got the ‘X-Factor’, be it through the though behind the game, the design and game play or simply the heart with which they have created it, I am simply here to encourage children in this novel cause,” expounded Anand, another member of the jury.
The jury went across to each of the 70 participating teams and played & tested the games over the next four hours, before finally coming to the conclusion that there would be a mention of the top five teams in the school category, among which the runners-up and the winner will receive cash vouchers worth Rs 2,000 from flipkart, medals and a small silver and gold trophy respectively.
The winners were a bunch of seventh graders, who had made a Football Quiz game using Unity software, where the agenda of the game was to answer simple questions by kicking the ball into any of the three goal posts, which the user felt reflected the correct option for the question asked.
On winning in the school category, the team members jointly said: “We really would like to thank the organizers for coming to our city and giving us an opportunity to not just participate in this contest, but also be trained in using the Unity software and create a game that we believed in. We would like to also thank our school and teachers for excusing us from classes for today, but we are sure they would be overjoyed with our success. We can’t wait to come to Pune in November for the NASSCOM game developers conference.”
In the evening, it was the turn of the college student and professional category. There were a total of 11 teams registered for GameJam Titans, among which there were 9 in the college category and 2 individuals for the professional category.
Post the registrations, the theme was randomly picked for the game developers and the theme for this category was either ‘dungeon’ or ‘speed’. With just 48 hours to complete developing the game, the participants quickly began sketching and planning the design and storyline for the games, before beginning the coding and programming for the same.
Since the Jam required the participants to continuously work for 48 hours on the game, they were required to stay on the Hindustan University campus at all times and create the game. The organizers ensured that the participants were well fed and hydrated, along with a regular dosage of caffeine to keep them awake and maintain a constant speed during the development stage.
The jury made their way to the venue once again on Sunday evening to decide the runners-up and the winner for this category. “Since these guys are a little more trained and are pursuing a career in gaming, they should be better equipped in using the various softwares and create a product that can be a standalone commodity for the marketplace. I have high expectations from this category and hope they do too,” smiled the judge from the land down under Gregg.
The three member jury went around the 11 teams, and was reasonably surprised with the result and the thought that went behind each game. Most of the games used both the themes in their gameplay and tried using different mechanics for their games.
At the end of the judging process, the jury found their runners-up in a team from I-CAT called ‘The Muffin Men’, which created a game on the lines of ‘Thomas was alone’ – a runaway success created & released by Mike Bithell in October 2010 – where there is a grid puzzle and has two balls, one as light as feather and the other as heavy as metal, and the agenda of the game is to cross each level with both the balls helping each other cross various obstacles to reach the end of the levels.
And the winner for this category was Rohan Menon, a recently graduated student, who created a game on the theme of speed called ‘Spin Paddle’. The game required a lot of strategising and fast reflexes, as a ball needs to be kept within the boundary walls with the use of two horizontal and two vertical paddles and by avoiding enemies by shooting them down and surviving as long as one can without losing health.
“I am elated and ecstatic, I can’t believe I won, I haven’t blinked an eye for 48 hours and am a little dizzy now, but I guess it’s worth all the efforts. I plan to develop the game further and will soon publish it for the world to play as well. I would like to thank the organizers for this great initiative and I would certainly like to come once again to GameJam Titans Chapter Two,” beamed Rohan.
All in all it was a great three day event, where children and college students got a chance to not just create games, but also pick up on soft skills like time management, responsibility sharing, team building, leadership and a lot of patience and strategizing. They also got to interact with industry bigwigs, who shared their stories and experiences in the field of gaming and also helped them with their games along the way with feedback.
Chapter one of GameJam Titans came to an end in Chennai with a bang, but this is only the beginning to a revolution, as the action now shifts to the city of Hyderabad, but that is a different story for a different day! Watch this space to catch all the news and updates on GameJam Titans.