Last weekend over 36,000 game creators assembled in over 90 countries for the Global Game Jam, according to the official games page there were a total of 6,869 games created for the jam.
Finland also saw some heavy jamming, in country, because as many as 927 jammers at 22 locations created 222 games smashing the previous record of 162. Finland also took jamming to a whole new level by taking one of the jam sites out into the wilderness of Lapland.
The event known as “Survival Mode” took 25 brave game makers far from civilization with no idea what was in store for them. They had no running water, only limited electricity and their only chance of connecting to the Internet was through their own phones and even that was by no means guaranteed. Their journey took them from a watery southern Finland to the heavy snowbanks of winter.
Among the Survival Mode jammers were Finnish game industry professionals, veteran jammers and even a few novices. Over the weekend they made seven games, which dealt with such diverse topics as recovering from a break up, providing for one’s family and the “booze circus” that commonly happens at Finland’s borders. The games drew inspiration from the common Global Game Jam theme of “ritual” but also from its unique extra theme, “border”.
One of the big challenges for Survival Mode was electricity. Even though several generators had been ferried in as a precaution, electricity was metered out carefully, and devices could only be charged during breaks for food and, this being Finland, sauna. It was estimated that the total power used to charge devices was 7.2 kwH, which is roughly equivalent to heating up an electric sauna once. Naturally, no electric saunas were present at Survival Mode, and instead the jammers were treated to a traditional wood-burning sauna located right by a hole in the ice. Both saw heavy use, which included using the sauna’s dressing room as a recording studio.
As the laptops went out, time had to be filled in other ways. Some teams made up for the lack of electricity by developing their games on less power hungry tablets, drawing their graphics by hand or even forming them out of playdough. The games made good use of the surrounding nature and the cabin itself both for inspiration and as a resource: several sound effects were recorded outside, and for instance the hum of the generators served as a truck’s engine. Jammers also served as voice actors our sound effect generators in many games. One game went as far as utilizing actual video shot under the ice, as one of the people present was an experienced diver who had their gear with them.
Daylight was available for a measly six hours, after which the jam site was enveloped in pitch blackness. Because there was no electric lighting, the cabin was equipped with atmospheric candles and lanterns. The flashlights and headlamps the jammers had brought with them proved to be a necessary tool both for working inside, and for making dark journeys to the outhouse.
Ultimately the so called struggle for survival proved to be too easy. There were so many skilled professionals present that game development turned out to be easy despite the extreme conditions. As fate would have it, the weekend in question was unseasonably warm, so instead of the -30 degree weather that had been anticipated the jammers experienced a pleasant weekend of -5 to -10 degrees. Some jammers created additional challenges for themselves. For example one decided to both create their game and even sleep outside in a hammock.
The group’s survival was taken care of by the good professionals at Lapland Safaris to such a degree that the necessities of life weren’t a concern even for a moment. The jammers got to enjoy salmon cooked right at tableside as well as the many bounties of Lapland’s nature. A bigger challenge would be the return to everyday life from the pampering and beautiful nature of Lapland.
As we marvel at all of the games that were created during the whirlwind Global Game Jam, I strongly encourage you to take some time and check out a few of the entries in this year’s jam. I’m always amazed by what these small teams are able to create in a span of 48 hours, I only wish I could be a fly on the wall watching how these teams work together to achieve their goals. Of course, I’m left wondering what next year will have in store for the jammers… January 20 – 22 for Global Game Jam 2017!
The event was organized by Finnish Game Jam ry in association with Lapland Safaris and many Finnish game companies. Supporting, and some also participating, were Seriously, Kuuasema, Frogmind Games, Mindfield Games, Moido Games and V2.fi.