Another year is just beginning, and that means another Global Game Jam has come and gone. For those who tuned in last year, complications shut my “local” place down, meaning the nearest GGJ was something like three hours away. The idea of going to Minneapolis or Saint Paul had its merits, but my brother and I decided to try something different.
We’d host our own.
However, the title of this little essay is “On the Best of Intentions,” so you should know where it’s going. I’ve yet to have a GGJ experience that wasn’t filled with problems. The tradition continued.
It started as a good idea though: We’d invite our group from last year, turn our apartment into a jam site, and order pizza for everyone. We’d spend half the time playing Smash Bros, watching garbage on Youtube, and drinking beer if I had any say in the matter.
Problem one: People live far away, have jobs, and in general, are bad at communicating.
Problem two: Apartments aren’t appropriate jam sites.
Problem three: Murphy’s Law.
2018’s Game Jam was a lonely one, with only two people instead of five. We did manage to get our apartment turned into a jam site at the very last minute, but with no one here, it felt like a waste of effort. It’s not the same, having a private site. Yes sleeping in a bed is nice, and yes being able to shower in the morning is straight-up divine in comparison, but the lack of people—of enthusiasm and spontaneity—isn’t worth the better living conditions.
I missed the random debates about Star Wars and the trading of portfolios. I missed the encouraging hosts and the curious people trying game development for the first time. I missed the video game talk. Hell, I missed that goofy dude with the cowboy hat and Amon Amarth t-shirt. I still don’t know his name!
It was…an odd weekend.
Typically I’d take a break from game development by listening to music, chatting on Facebook, or going for a short walk. This time, I took breaks to do dishes, clean my apartment, and go grocery shopping of all things. Last year life stopped for this event; this year, life continued. It was just a busier weekend than normal.
I don’t begrudge our friends not being able to make it. They love the spirit of the thing, and for all we had planned, that was the one thing we could not provide.
That being said, I’m still glad we participated. For all the tradition of problems, I still had fun, and when all was said and done, I still helped make a cool thing.
Like the last two years, this one saw me on music and sound. The big difference this time was my instrument choices. I’m used to working with bad midi guitars and orchestral synths; this time I wanted to try my hand at digital sounds—electronic/EDM stuff.
Step one was to find some synths, which is honestly a huge chore. I’m not good enough to make my own, not like I had time to anyhow. That meant diving into FL Studio presets. The good news is FL Studio has like a thousand; the bad news is that FL Studio has like a thousand.
Day one was spent finding the tools I’d need for day two. I tried my hand at digital drums but quickly abandoned that for more traditional ones. Toms and kicks and snares are easier to work with…and the stuff I had put together sounded really, really awful.
I threw an hour into a tune that was shaping up okay only to have my brother reject it outright. I scrapped it, a little miffed at doing so, and then quickly fell in love with my second attempt. My bro has a knack for being right about that sorta thing.
I spent all of Saturday making a four-and-some-change minute song with all kinds of crazy synths, bells, but no whistles. Those sounded too tacky.
Day three was spent on sound effects. I typically do those on day two, so that felt pretty off, like I was very behind. Thankfully we didn’t need many and planned on using the Foley method for the big ones. That went about as well as it normally does.
The result is the game you see below, uploaded with four minutes to spare.
I don’t…I don’t have a real conclusion to this blog-style post. We went into this with the best of intentions and came away with a fun, cozy project made with less stress and back aches than previous jams. I missed the stress though, and I missed the people. Last year I talked about the importance of art, how these events are meaningful as creative outlets. That still holds true, but my perspective has shifted some.
It’s more than art: It’s about community.
Guys, if you’re reading this and ever had the inkling to make a video game, then see if you have a global game jam site near you. Join up. Talk games and movies and music with strangers. Make a thing. It’s really, really awesome. If you can’t wait, hit up the internet. I hear there are people on there that might share your interests.