Game making on a global scale

UAlbany hosts International Game Jam

Marcel the hamster plods mindlessly across a room filled with spikes, flying projectiles and precipitous falls. A floating box accompanies him, brushing away the obstacles as he makes his way toward the door. But one floating bullet gets through, and Marcel collapses with an erp that sends the room of gaming whizzes at the University at Albany into laughter.

This is "Fade," just one video game created from nothing over the course of a weekend by a group of programmers and artists who gathered at UAlbany for the third annual International Game Jam, which challenges a global group of participants to put together original games in just 48 hours.

This year was the most successful yet in terms of participation, both for UAlbany and the program as a whole. Fifty-seven people of all ages and skill sets came to the school on Friday, Jan. 28, and worldwide, more than 6,500 participants were recorded at 170 sites in 44 countries. They created almost 1,500 games over the weekend.

Albany sported the 35th biggest site in the world.

"It's neat to be part of that community," said Jennifer Goodall, director of the school's College of Computing and Information. "It's gotten bigger every year."

Each year's event comes with a theme, announced on Friday evening. This year, international organizers chose "Extinction," which resulted in a wide range of projects from more violent, dark titles to hopeful and even educational games.

The games spoke not only to the teams' technical wherewithal, but also their creativity. In "Dodo Island," the player controls a dodo bird that must eat as many poisonous mushrooms as possible before being caught by explorers and eaten.

Team Darwin designed a more cerebral game in which the player must select different attributes to give a neutral "poof" creature to best enable it to survive in different environments and situations. In "Fade," the designers let the player phase the environment out of existence, rather than Marcel the hamster himself.

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