The 7th annual Global Game Jam took place this past weekend, January 23-25th. A global phenomenon, Global Game Jam broke records in attendance, diversity, locations, and games with 78 countries involved, 29,000 participants, and over 5,000 games created in the two day period. GBR had a chance to catch up with Susan Gold, founder and President of Global Game Jam to hear more about this year’s event and the future Global Game Jam.
Can you provide some background and insight into your motivation for starting the Global Game Jam?
Several different motivators… it started with my ideas about how creativity increases when surrounded by other creatives. I wanted to see what happens when we are challenged and that when you don’t have anything to lose, it is a lot easier to be innovative. I also had a vision for uniting the world through games, opening up development around the world, uniting community, no matter where, an opportunity to share in the universal language of games. I also had my educator hat on and saw the importance of having students learn what it was like to actually make a complete game. Plus it just seemed like a lot of fun.
How has the Global Game Jam grown over the years?
It keeps growing and I keep trying to wrap my head around it, I really am in awe of the size. The excitement for me is in seeing new countries join us and make positive effective change in societies by introducing game development on this scale. Before GGJ in Peru the industry was relatively small, after the game jam, several small studios have been started. Watching countries like Cuba join GGJ this year is so exciting.
There have been a number of exceptional locations such as Cairo. What do you think is the draw for people in these regions?
The Global Game Jam is never a competition, it should always be about the experience. In my mind I think that means it is about bringing people together who love games and want to make their ideas and dreams come to life. I think people want to have shared experiences, especially because it is really hard to make a game by yourself. I think that having large locations in places like Cairo or Vancouver just tells me that these are places that have curious excited creative people that want to make ideas come to life.
What other areas were active?
2015 numbers were huge, with 29K participants in 518 jam sites in 78 countries created 5K games over the weekend. One of the biggest venues was the Global Game Jam 2015 Egypt, which had more than 800 participants (30% were women). We also had new locations in Belarus, Cuba, Ecuador, the Faroe Islands, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guernsey and Luxembourg. Other big numbers, Curitiba, Brazil had 572 participants, Vancouver, Canada 331, Staffordshire, UK 321, Milan, Italy had 318 and USC in LA had 287, Paris 270, Manila 266, Atlanta 263, NYU 256, Facebook (Menlo Park) 248
What was the general makeup of attendees in 2015? Has it changed much over the years?
I think that the diversity has increased, the experience level and the number of Indies and Pros participating have been on the uptick. I think the increase in the number of games that actually go from just an idea over the GGJ weekend to the App store has also increased. Several of the games made during GGJ have won awards at IGF and IndieCade.
What were some of the stand out games this year?
I really have not had a chance to play as I went from hosting a jam to getting some sleep only to wake up to snow-pocalypse pending. I am going to try to play a few during the storm.
Have there been any inspiring stories you’ve heard this year, or over the years?
They are so numerous, I can begin to tell you all of them. I love the stories of people getting jobs or offers for their games. Meeting people they like so much they want to start a studio together. And there are always stories of couples meeting for the first time at the jam. I really like the stories where people tell me they found their calling at the jam, or that jam gave them enough confidence to pursue their dreams. Or the seasoned pro who forgot what it was like to be in the trenches and remembering why they love what they do. All of these things make me so happy and so proud.
What do you envision for the future of the Global Game Jam?
Opening up game development to more people and more countries, changing the world for the better through games.