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Game making on a global scale

Though most of the games created were video games, this year's Game Jam saw the introduction of board games and card games to the mix, which brought an entirely different class of designers to the table.

William Balch, for example, collaborated with others over the weekend to create a board game that pitted predators against one another on a changing game board. He also helped James Walsh build a card game that sees the player leading a civilization that has to deal with various catastrophes like asteroid impacts.

It's this kind of collaboration that makes the Game Jam experience unique, said Mark Abrams, of the Albany Chapter of the International Game Developers Association, and it's especially useful to younger participants. UAlbany's event sees high schoolers turning out every year, as well as college students who sometimes drive hours to participate.

"They learn new software, they learn new materials, they meet a lot of new people," said Abrams, who works for First Playable, a game design studio in Troy. "Most of these have never developed a game before; that's the amazing thing."

In between managing events for the weekend, Abrams created an educational adding game where the goal is to keep your number from going extinct.

For many of these youngsters, games may very well turn into more than a diversion. Video gaming was an $11.7 billion industry in 2008, which is more than Hollywood has collected at the box office in recent years. More demographics than ever are picking up the hobby with the introduction of "casual gaming" experiences like Nintendo's Wii and cell phone gaming, leaving many to speculate the industry is far from topping out.

But for the Game Jam participants there are no immediate financial rewards, just the satisfaction of creation and learning something new. On Sunday evening, the participants took time to test one others games and hand out awards for special achievements.

You can find a list of the games created during the Game Jam (many of which are playable) at www.globalgamejam.org.

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