Welcome to the second installment of a blog series we’re calling “Sarasota Sizzle.” What’s “sizzle,” you ask? The Blink;Tech team’s definition of “sizzle” is what happens at the local intersection of creativity, technology, and entrepreneurship. The more we look around us in Sarasota, the more we discover people, businesses, projects, and initiatives that “sizzle.” And when something sizzles, it’s too good not to share.
Do you remember those games you played as a kid, where all it took was one afternoon to invent a whole new world? One complete with fantastic characters and reality-bending rules where you and your friends (now fellow adventurers) would get lost for hours on end?
You can thank the Global Game Jam® (GGJ) for keeping that creative process alive and thriving in people of all ages. Every year since 2009, GGJ brings together programmers, developers, designers, and artists at worldwide “jam sites” for 48 hours of intense, creative collaboration in pursuit of one goal: to make new games.
This year GGJ has smashed its participation record. As of this writing, 632 jam sites have registered in 91 countries; in total, that’s 16,608 jammers across the globe. And some of them will be jamming their hearts out right here in Sarasota.
Game creation has fascinated Joe Granato, the host of the Sarasota Game Jam, for as long as he can remember. A musician, documentary filmmaker, and game development educator, Granato started the Sarasota site in 2014. He cites GGJ as “an incredible networking opportunity and a way to get past the common excuses of never having the time or budget to produce something creative.”
The Sarasota Game Jam will take place at the HuB, an epicenter of the technology and creativity for which Sarasota is gradually becoming recognized.
“Sarasota is, in my opinion, the perfect place for an event like this,” Granato says. “First and foremost, Sarasota is the home of some of the most sought after-artists in the country.” He notes that students from local institutions are often recruited to major game and animation companies right after graduation: “This is great experience for them to work directly with programmers and other creatives to produce out a portfolio piece, and more importantly just get a feel for the whole pipeline of work condensed into a small window that doesn’t take too much away from their rigorous course of study. It also really benefits the many young start-ups and independent developers in the area, as the collaborative nature of the event helps foster creative relationships.”
It takes people of all skills, interests, and backgrounds to create a full-fledged game, especially within a 48-hour window. “Artists and programmers are hugely beneficial to an event like this,” Granato says. “The more, the better. Narrative developers, musicians, and even play testers are also encouraged to check it out.”
So, how does the jam go down? On the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 29, participants will start arriving at jam sites. A bit of networking and mock brainstorming sessions help everyone get to know each other and their skillsets. Then, at 5 p.m. local time, the GGJ theme is announced. The clock starts. Teams form, and the jam is on.
“The next 48 hours go by in a blur, as the teams diligently plug away at their creation,” Granato says. “The jam site will be open for the entire 48 hours, and participants are welcome to come and go as they please, but encouraged to be present as much as possible. It is not a competition; it is a collaborative experience, and so people are often on hand to help each other produce the best project possible in the 48 hours.” Granato adds that workshops and tutorials with local experts in different elements of game design enrich the experience.
At the end of the sprint, the teams upload their games and celebrate, of course! The best part? Creators retain full rights to their work, and Granato reports that many leave with the seed for a game that they’ll later develop into a commercial release.
Of the products he’s seen come out of GGJ, Granato says, “I’ve seen small-scale games created for high-end consoles, games created for mobile devices, games created with drag-and-drop tools such as RPG maker or GameMaker, I’ve seen tabletop and board games … I’ve seen the entire spectrum.
“But what I have found, and possibly this is more important, is that an event like this fosters confidence in young developers, introduces participants to the full pipeline, and acts as a lightning rod for local collaboration between artists and techies.”
Global Game Jam® 2016 takes place January 29-31. Want to get involved? Registration for Sarasota game jammers is free! Go to GlobalGameJam.org, set up your jammer profile, and sign up at your local jam site! Then take a front-row seat to the action when tech and artistry collide in the spirit of serious play.
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