I was a participant in this year’s Global Game Jam (GGJ), which is an annual event organised simultaneously by many countries. It marked the second time that Belgium participated, and this year’s attendance of 40 more than tripled that of last year. GGJ’s goal is to create a functional game based on a single theme in a timespan of 48 hours (this year the theme was “deception”). At first I was somewhat daunted as the room slowly filled up with programmers and 2D/3D artists. Introducing myself as an aspiring narrative designer elicited some worries in a “getting-picked-last-at-gym” sort of way, but fortunately enough I was quick to glom onto a team in which all necessary skills were accounted for.
I really got the feeling that I experienced the entire cycle of game production over the course of 48 hours (albeit on a much smaller scale, of course). The initial brainstorm (concept) was followed by forming a group (hiring) and working out the game mechanics in conjunction with the story (pre-production). Then we got to actually creating the game (production), all the while allowing others to sample early versions (quality assurance) and working within a set of rules, confines and themes (publisher oversight). In the last few hours before the deadline, the code needed to be finalised to incorporate all visual assets (post-production), after which the whole game was compiled and uploaded (release). Admittedly, the game I helped create didn’t make it to completion in time for the deadline, but a playable version was ready to be presented.
All through this process, I was confronted first-hand with many hurdles a narrative designer has to deal with, including but not limited to:
- crafting a story suited to gameplay mechanics (and vice-versa)
- adapting that story to fit technical constraints
- repurposing story elements to support existing assets
- cooperation with different departments (represented by single individuals in this case)
- rapidly responding to dynamic situations (more so when approaching the deadline)
In the end, GGJ proved to be an invaluable experience, mostly because I met and interacted with a great deal of like-minded individuals. Not that my desire to become a narrative designer needed any more affirmation, but if it did, GGJ provided that and more. There were many photos taken during the event, and I'll post some here once/if they get uploaded.