This weekend, 200-plus creative people will sequester themselves in a university building, forego lots of sleep, and work their butts off – so they can get a video game put together in just two days' time.
That's the core concept of Gamecraft, a two-day "game jam" (like a hackathon, but for game creation) that's hosted by GLITCH – a nonprofit that promotes digital game creators. And it all starts Friday night.
What the heck is it?
Gamecraft it a 48-hour game-making marathon, and one of the Global Game Jam events held around the world. The designers, artists, writers and developers in attendance build a team after dinner Friday, then by Sunday afternoon turn in a finished game.
Time is short. Which means sleep is, too.
"Traditional sleep hours are definitely thrown out the window,"Katie Simning, director of operations for GLITCH, told GoMN.
Organizers have tents for people to block out the activity and get some sleep (which they highly encourage). Though Simning said there are always "a few stalwarts who refuse to nap." Everyone else generally gets some type of sleep.
The final games get submitted to the Global Game Jam website. And on Jan. 28 there will be a Play Party to play all of the games, which is open to the public (though details on exactly when and where are TBD).
Examples of some games
There was stabby shakespeare game, where you guide star-crossed lovers to their doom, while also stabbing.
Where are you, Benjamin? puts you in control of a 90-year-old widow, going to pay respects to her late Benjamin. You have to walk through the graveyard, reliving memories and grief, while finding his resting place.
Or Escape, Goat! where you are a goat (duh) trying to avoid being sacrificed.
It's a chance to celebrate the overlooked
These games are essentially starting from scratch. The teams have to create the basic concept, code it, illustrate it, add sound and music – everything that goes into making a game. Even the stuff you might not realize is important.
"Like a film, there are many different skills that go into creating a game and you are correct that some aspects have been less visible than others in the past," Simning told GoMN.
But Simning pointed to two recent indie hits that have helped push video game narratives into new places, and allowed these overlooked aspects of game creation to shine: Life is Strange (you play as a photographer who discovers she can rewind time, and your choices change the outcome); and Gone Home (an "interactive exploration simulator" where you arrive home after a year abroad, and wander around an empty house you expected to be filled with family).
The Video Games Live touring concerts have also helped, she said.
Skill levels can be all over the place, Simning explained. People with zero experience can be on teams with seasoned experts. And you need people with different skills and backgrounds. (For example, you would run into trouble if your entire team was made up only of level designers, or only dialogue writers.)
"Minnesota has a great digital games community with creators of all skills and backgrounds," Simning said. "Often where one person's skills excel, another's is lacking. So we really encourage finding and working with people who have complementary skills."