The Global Game Jam is a yearly event designed to bring people of various backgrounds together to build video games. This year the Portland game community was one participant in this global event taking place in 242 locations over 47 countries in the course of the weekend. I was part of the initial kickoff and was able to be part of this creative digital collab-fest.

As the 60+ people converged on The Art Institute of Portland I was surprised at the diversity of the group consisting of programmers, artists, musicians, modelers, writers, classically trained 3d generalists, architects, pixel artists, film makers, illustrators and community organizers. After the keynote video the group was presented with this years Global Game Jam theme. The theme of this years Jam was the sound of a beating heart.

The event was spiced up a bit when a random passerby was forcibly removed by Police and Art Insitute security. He was not affiliated with the Game Jam as an organizer or attendee.

As the Game Jam kicked off I was able to watch some groups brainstorming some really awesome game concepts. The first group I observed were riffing on ideas for the tone of the game they were building. Wanting the game to contain tension they discussed having the main character go on a spirit quest. One person joked about putting some kind of meat front as an integral game component but it was dismissed with the quip “This is a vegan game.”

The last group I experience was finalizing the planning stages of a really interesting rhythm game. Jotting down the basic game structure in Microsoft Project this team focused on building a game that had the visual aesthetic of a cell shaded cartoon. One of the members completed the start of a heartbeat based rhythm he demoed in Ableton Live. As I listened to the surging beat I was really impressed with the creativity used by the members to bring this electronic collaboration to stage.

As the night progressed I was able to sit down with Will Lewis, the event organizer and ask him a few questions about the Portland Game Jam.

jdodson: What were some of your goals for the Global Game Jam this year?

Will Lewis: In a more general sense it was to take advantage of the resources we've gained over the last year regarding the people we've met and how many more members have joined the community. I really wanted to get people together to cold call sponsors in the area to make this event a full meal deal. My number one goal was to get meals for everybody each day. I also wanted to get prizes for people that completed certain games and achievements for Games for Change. Some people are also bringing relaxation activities and one of our members is hosting a stretch and meditation session. I wanted to focus on improving the quality of life for the Jam because a 48 hour stretch isn’t that fun sometimes.

jdodson: As PIGSquad gains more Steam in the Portland Gaming Community what are you looking forward to in 2013? Also, what are some things you want people to know about PIGSquad moving forward?

Will Lewis: PIGSquad is kind of a tough one because its a community and I guess what I want from PIGSquad is that it continue itself. Most of what PIGSquad is comes to fruition with what I do personally.

jdodson: So turning it from a "Will Lewis" operation to a community led organization?

Will Lewis: Exactly yeah. It has already done so much for the community as people have already found jobs from it and made friends through it. I don’t see it becoming self perpetuating by next year but its the ultimate goal. Another goal I have is to explore other events I have and have fun with it.

Another thing that happened through PIGSquad is I met Jeffery who had an idea for a non-profit Portland cafe games library. After being really active with PIGSquad in the community his idea evolved into a games education project. There has been so much research coming out about games and how they influence children's learning and because of that I am partnering with him in Pixel Arts. We are working on a series of workshops for kids to learn about game development, programming and art and animation. So when people ask me about goals I have with PIGSquad I see Pixel Arts as the more goal oriented one and that PIGSquad will eventually be self perpetuating.

jdodson: We all came to gaming from a particular game or set of events and I wonder for you what those were?

Will Lewis: When I was little I was really obsessed with games and my Mom didn’t trust me with a console so I only had a Gameboy growing up.

jdodson: I think a lot of parents have fears about kids spending too much time playing video games.

Will Lewis: Yeah, exactly. I used to watch King Kong by Ray Harryhousen when I was six along with The Nightmare Before Christmas. On top of that I grew up on and still live on 20 acres of woodland in Oregon City. My Dad is also a Carpenter and made me wooden swords and as a kid I would go out and cut down plants and stuff. So that environment mixed with the characters that were in these movies and such and I realized of late its the characters in games and games can allow you to explore characters better than other mediums. So I think thats where my interest in games has evolved from.

jdodson: Thanks Will, I wish you well with the remainder of this years Jam!

BR   Supporter wrote on 01/29/2013 at 08:08pm

Wasn`t that surgeon simulator game part of this? That game is hilarious and fun.

AdamPFarnsworth wrote on 01/29/2013 at 08:25pm

I'm very disappointed I missed the Jam! Sounds like it was pretty awesome.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 01/29/2013 at 08:35pm
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