High-scoring Experience

Dr. Monica McGill, assistant professor in interactive media, sits between junior Anthony Opp, left, and senior Nicole Werling, right, as they prepare for the second Global Game Jam event on Bradley's campus.

By Frank Radosevich II
January 28, 2013

Although the semester has just begun, a handful of Bradley students have already spent a weekend surviving on minimal sleep. Rather than studying for an exam, a team of 15 students worked around the clock developing two video games from scratch.

The group was one of hundreds around the world participating in Global Game Jam, an annual event that challenges professional developers, hobbyists and students to design and build a game. Bradley’s team gathered at 4 p.m. Friday in the Caterpillar Global Communications Center for the 48-hour jam, a project of the International Game Developers Association.

Dr. Monica McGill, assistant professor in the Department of Interactive Media, helped organize the event and said it gives students an opportunity to be creative and use their computer skills in a non-graded application.

“It’s a well-known industry event,” McGill said. “When students have this experience, it directly benefits their portfolios. It gives them a starting point for talking with employers, which is really important for finding a job in this competitive field.

This was the second year Bradley has participated in Global Game Jam and the weekend opened with organizers outlining this year’s theme for the competition — the human heartbeat. The students then brainstormed on how to incorporate the theme into their game before getting to work on the game’s coding, graphic design and sound.

Nicole Werling participated in Global Game Jam last year and summed up her experience in one word, “exhausting.” The senior computer science major said what brought her back was her love of video game design.

“I came to college wanting to make games. It’s the reason why I’m in computer science,” said Werling, who also has a concentration in computer game technology.

The team finished the weekend with creating two digital games and one non-digital game, McGill said. Though the event focuses on creating digital games, McGill said students from all majors are welcomed to participate in the designing process.

One of the digital games created by the group was Bound. The game forces the player to rely on audio stimuli to navigate a 3-D maze. In Bound, the audio and visual feedback are completely separate, giving the gameplay two unique feels depending on how the player chooses to interact with the world.

Besides sharpening their gaming skills, the weekend teaches students how to collaborate as a team and manage time properly. Andrew Howell, a senior interactive media major from Morton, Ill., said Global Game Jam made him appreciate how real video games are made on a short schedules.

“You get use to dealing with pressure very quickly or else you just breakdown by mid-Saturday. I think it made me a better designer and team member,” he said. “Having that kind of pressure on you and using it as a motivator is a talent that you need to pick up in this industry.”