Students at Cogswell College Spend 48 Hours Developing Games

From the San Jose Mercury News - by Jasmine Leyva

On tabletops were bags of chips, energy drinks, backpacks and laptops. These were the tools the students of Cogswell College were going to need to make it through 48 hours of creation, innovation and perhaps insomnia. Cogswell College was one of 518 global sites to participate in the 2015 Global Game Jam, an annual event that sees students and gaming enthusiasts hunker down for 48 hours and create what they hope will be the next great game. Students, professionals, alumni and hobbyists have risen to a new challenge each year to develop a game, whether it be digital or non-digital, to match a secret theme. This year's theme was "What do we do now?"

"It's an open-ended theme, but it's meant to be open-ended so that the developers have the freedom to do whatever they want, but they have to capture the theme in some way," Organizer and assistant professor Albert Chen said.

The event ran Jan. 23-25 and included a record 25,000-plus participants around the world. Global Game Jam got its start in 2008, with Cogswell College in Sunnyvale participating since 2009. Jam participants have the chance to develop their game further by working out design flaws or programming kinks. It is even possible to have their game published and in the gaming market under an independent company or a well-known corporation.

"There have been a number of success stories where students who participated at the game jam have gotten hired into game companies. It's a great way to jump start their career if they are trying to get into the game industry," Chen said.
Teams at the Cogswell site were designing games with many different concepts in mind. One group was using Google Cardboard for a virtual reality game. Virgil Garcia, a sophomore at Cogswell, and his team worked around the clock to put together their virtual reality game, which he described as a horror game.

"Our idea was for a dark, atmospheric maze game," Garcia said.

The groups at Cogswell spent hours building a concept, designing characters and programming playable levels and instructions for their games. One group of came up with Fluster Cluck, a multi-player party game resembling Tron and Snake with plenty of poultry puns.

"I believe the coolest stuff comes from the craziest ideas, and if you're having fun something must be going right. So we came up with Fuster Cluck. I think it's just hilarious every time I say it," said Darrell Atienza, a returning participant to Cogswell's event.

Atienza, a San Jose resident, was his group's character designer. Characters he designed for Fuster Cluck included Gizard, a chicken wizard and Robocock, a robotic rooster. Besides funny game characters and programming levels in just 48 hours, event participants said they were happy to put their skills to use for their passion. Dylan Greek, a junior at Cogswell and Global Game Jam veteran, said he's been involved in the gaming industry since he was just a little boy.

"I've always been an avid player, but my dad worked for a company that made educational games back in the 1990s, so I was kind of a game tester since I was 5," Greek said.

"I was playing the original Nintendo since I was 2, so it's amazing to see that games I used to play were developed along the same lines as we are doing now," said Tanner Posada, a newcomer to the event.

Gaming for all
Cogswell College has worked hard to include everyone. The Global Game Jam event saw more than 50 participants and the school's game development club is helping curb the gaming industry's boys club reputation. President of Cogswell's game development club, Jodediah Holems said he is focused on making the gaming community open to everyone, just as GaymerX does. GaymerX and GX are gaming conventions that bring game developers and enthusiast together to discuss their passions while creating a safe space for all attending.

"I think Cogswell is trying to actively get more females, but I think the ratio was 80:20 when I came in," said alumna Cara Ricci, who participated in this year's event with a handful of other women. "I think Jodediah [Holems] has helped things out, especially being the Game Development Club President. I wasn't here for it, but I know he gave a talk for inclusive and respecting other people," she said.

Holems, an eclectic developer, is no stranger to the game development jams. He is looking for games that go beyond the normal guns, battles and missions. He develops experimental games that take more than a controller to win a level. Last year he created a game that was a combination of the puzzle game Tetris and a word search. The game ultimately created a story from the letters. This year he and his team created a game that reached to players' emotional and psychological playing level. They called it "And after a long day of (blank) I removed my armor."

For more information about Cogswell College, visit cogswell.edu. For more information about the Global Game Jam, visit globalgamejam.org.

As seen on:
San Jose Mercury News

 

February 4, 2015