This weekend in Beijing saw The Global Game Jam, where thousands upon thousands of gamers join together to create a video game over just one weekend.
China has had development teams participate in the GGJ in the past. Over the last four years, Shanghai has submitted entries into the GGJ. There's also one done in Hong Kong. Bringing GGJ to Beijing this year was due to the combined effort of the people behind the Beijing-based Substantial Games indie studio, Steel Media, and the mobile social platform KT Play.
So, for those of you who don't know what the GGJ is, here is the definition from its website:
WHAT IS THE GLOBAL GAME JAM?
The GGJ brings together talented individuals from within your community. It is a unique opportunity for people to push their skills and challenge their way of working. Participants work concurrently with developers around the globe; we rally around a central theme, and then have 48 hours to create a game. It's our hope that we will see some very experimental realized prototypes that you can continue to work on after the jam. Many games developed in previous Game Jams have become fully realized games. The GGJ is open source, hardware & software agnostic and all projects are protected under a Creative Commons license. We encourage people to try out new ideas and push themselves, within reason. We also strongly encourage participants to remember to eat and sleep, to stay at their best!
The participants are also given a unique theme to build their games toward. This year, the theme was, "what do we do now?".
Pin Wang, founder of Substantial Games and one of the organisers of the Game Jam, said that the quality and the subject matter was much better than he thought it would be.
"People are all like, there's no innovation in Chinese games, there's zero, but you would think that people would be making heartless robots," said Wang. "They're derivative, but there are a lot of interesting games with cool conventions. The two guys who worked on the rowing game, from Xian, one guy had a flow-like game and the other had an ARPG, and together, they made this rowing game."
"This was way beyond expectations," Wang added.
Pin Wang (right) tests a game
Talking about innovation and the GGJ, Wang said that whenever he talks to foreigners about innovation in China, they tell him they don't expect anything new or interesting, even in five years' time. However, after the showing at the GGJ, Wang says that he believes that the participants will change the industry.
Wang and his co-organiser, Simon Zhu, say that the plan is to continue to build the indie scene in China, and in particular Beijing. They plan to do something similar to the GGJ on a quarterly basis, with the next event tentatively scheduled for April.
That said, enough about the Game Jam, it's time to look into the games:
Over 100 people in 33 teams participated in the Game Jam this past weekend. I got to play about six of the 30 games that were finished, if you want to see more the Game Jam website has all the submitted games for you to try out. Below are just a few of the games that stood out to me.
Mindless Rowing Seems to be Awesome
At first, this game looks and seems ridiculous. The premise is to row a boat and recover items, 20 in all. What's fun about this game? Well it's the controls! This is a two player game where each player takes control of two "rowers". The left and right arrow keys control the rowers on the front of the boat and the A and D keys control the back.
Players have to work in unison to move the boat forward otherwise the boat gets stuck moving in circles. This is much harder than it sounds.
Every so often, a giant wave appears and depending on the orientation of the vessel, a crew member is knocked overboard. Players can return their character to the boat by pressing the key that controls said character.
This game is both frustrating and a lot of fun. Can you beat the record set by Sam Green and myself? We got 11 items.
The Real Illusion
I'm not sure why this game wasn't uploaded onto the Beijing GGJ website, but this was definitely one of the more interesting titles created.
Real Illusion is a different spin on survival horror where the player takes control of a man lost in a dream world being chased down by monsters. While the player runs, he's technically invincible, however the time you can spend running is limited, and the screen goes black when you're out. When the lights come on, if the player is standing on an obstacle, he's dead.
This game reminds me of Stick Hero with its distance judging, Silent Hill with its creepy music, and the various endless runners out there on the market. I will update if the game becomes available.
Life and I
The last game that I felt that deserved to be mentioned was Life and I. The game was a simple platformer with lightsaber action!
Players take control of a small block that gets bigger as it accumulates coins. According to the designers the block represents life, so as the block gets bigger it starts becoming vulnerable to the dangers in its environment. As it advances and "levels up," gaining a weapons, it starts to lose coins automatically signifying the decaying nature of life. We're all dying... all the time.
As macabre and sad as that is, the dying factor gives the game a sense of urgency that you need to find coins ASAP otherwise it's game over. This was a fun little game.
You're reading the title correctly.
The game's designer designed a simple R-Type-style game, except the whole thing is filled with things NSFW. The reason? He wanted to express his disdain with his country's laws and regulations regarding video games.
This game is just, I can't describe it.
Games from Beijing chapter of Global Game Jam [Official Site]