Sitting in a noisy, brightly-lit room, surrounded by groups of people, Keegan van der Laag has one focus — to create a new game in 48 hours.
As part of OrcaJam, programmers, artists, audio engineers, and board game designers get together and form teams. The teams are given a theme and must create a new game from start to finish in two days that people can play when the marathon is complete.
Van der Laag, an Esquimalt resident, begins the night assuming he’ll compete on his own, but is quickly roped into a group of roughly six people he’s never met before.
The theme of the night was fathom.
He is given the task of programmer, in charge of programming all the game play logic such as how characters move based on which buttons or keys players press.
Van der Laag said teams often begin with grand ideas of what they want the game to include, but slowly begin to understand what’s realistic in the time frame — almost as if trying to fit together the pieces of a small, more manageable puzzle.
“It becomes an interesting journey over the course of the weekend as you try and figure out, especially as things evolve, what you want to do. It becomes challenging to get all the things that you want in and how to get them in without sacrificing other things,” he said.
“It’s quite different from other types of game development.”
In the end, his team chose an underwater theme where the player controls a mermaid who must navigate through obstacles and collect items.
Van der Laag is one of roughly 35 people who have signed up to participate in Global Game Jam in Victoria this weekend.
Similar to OrcaJam, the event, put on by the University of Victoria’s Game Development Club and the local chapter of the International Game Developers Association, brings together thousands of people from around the world in 500 cities in a game-making 48-hour marathon.
Dylan Gedig, lead organizer of the event in Victoria, said it allows the city’s thriving gaming community to try their hand at new things.
“The best thing about the game jam is they’re such a great place to develop your own skills. When people are experimenting and trying new things, they always learn a lot and that’s really what it’s all about,” Gedig said.
The event takes place at Fort Tectoria (777 Fort St.) beginning on Friday, Jan. 29 at 6 p.m. until Jan. 31 at 9 p.m. To sign up visit globalgamejam.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.