This month I took up the chance to take part in the Bristol Global Game Jam 2016, where game creators, and those new to creating games (such as I), get together to make a working game within a set time limit.

Global Game Jams have been held annually for a surprisingly long time, and even before it was founded by Susan Gold in 2008, many game developers would get together to make a game in a weekend for no reward other than the satisfaction of creating.

This year, Pervasive Media Studios at The Watershed hosted one of two Game Jams taking place in Bristol (the other taking place at UWE). Organised by Bristol Games Hub, game enthusiasts, rookie developers and hobbyists came from all around the UK to help create some rudimentary, wacky, and quite often hilarious video games.

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Creating at the Pervasive Media Studios: This is what game design looks like

Caught up in the Jam

Part of the magic of the Jam was that I, someone with zero game development experience, could attend the event, feel welcome, and then actually contribute something valuable to the project. If you have even the slightest interest in developing games, I highly recommending attending Bristol’s Global Game Jam next year.

Tickets for the event were £10, which got us into the studios from 5pm Friday to 5pm Sunday (with some sleep breaks in-between), giving the teams just 24 hours to design, program and test their games.

Each year’s Jam has a theme and several criteria to fill in order to be eligible for a prize-winning position. This year’s theme was ‘ritual’, and some of the more interesting prize-winning criteria were having to include the ability to play your game with one hand, and incorporating a second screen.

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Habitat: My home for the weekend

Gamer in development

Our team, Simple Tools, which was comprised mostly of non-developers, produced a working card game with an app counterpart. I used my brief education in music technology to provide the game’s soundtrack, and although our two most valuable team members were a talented graphic artist and programmer, much of the games design and development was done as a team, allowing everyone to experience all aspects of game development.

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Simple Tools: The future of game design?
(Image credit Jake Tucker)

We were also free to roam the Pervasive Media offices and see what the other teams were getting up to, and chat to experienced developers to get some insight into the industry.

At 5pm on Sunday we all gathered to demo our games, a process complete with plenty of technical bugs and good-natured heckling. Team Discovery Channel with their avian romance simulator ‘Randy Birds’ were declared the winning team, however it seemed to me that it was the experience and team spirit that mattered most to all people involved. If the friendly atmosphere and wholly positive outlook to teamwork that was presented at this event in any way represents the Bristol game development scene, then it is definitely something worth being a part of in the future.

Don’t forget to check out all of this year’s Bristol’s GGJ projects here, or browse through the Global Game Jam website to see what the rest of the world got up to. Follow the Bristol Game Hub on Twitter to hear about any future events, or if you’re interested in renting a space at Pervasive Media, head to their website for more information.

Jimmy Crosthwaite