Boxes of pizza sat on the table and Red Bull was the drink of choice at the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center on Georgia Avenue on Friday evening at the Silver Spring hub of the 2010 Global Game Jam, where teams of local designers and enthusiasts were given 48 hours to complete functioning video games.
Beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, the Silver Spring teams — who were joined by 153 different Game Jam sites worldwide — were given the theme "deception'' to build their games around. They quickly got to work drawing characters, writing a story and programming controls. While 48 hours was hardly enough time for the budding designers to create the next video-game blockbuster, the results were nonetheless interesting — and very creative.
For example, the game "SNATCH!" was the brainchild of Baltimore residents Aubrey Richardson, 19, Luke Cardoni, 22, Gabe Pendleton, 23, and Carrington Dennis, 20. Taking the deception theme, the group placed their game in an art museum with the main character using a color-changing stealth suit to make his way past a series of guards in order to steal a priceless gem.
The long confinement and hours of forced-wakefulness took their toll on the group, which was participating in the Game Jam for the first time. But the toughest part of making the game was getting the group to decide on the plot, according to Dennis.
"Of course you run into those little debugging issues, and you don't know why that little message comes up, but ... by that point we were already 24 hours into the jam," he said. "It was a longer process as far as getting the group to decide on one concept."
Each of the other two groups working out of the Silver Spring location had at least one member with previous Game Jam experience. Silver Spring resident Casey Minnick, 16, was quick to lend his expertise to his group, the "R?d Bülls." Last year, Minnick helped program a game that won judges' awards.
"Last year, we actually thought we were going to lose, because we were the only high school team to compete," he said. "This year, I came into it with the mindset of, ‘I am going to be prepared!'"
Meanwhile, Baltimore resident Brian White, 22, was excited for his chance to actually complete a game this year; he said his team was disappointed by a programmer who failed to live up to his claims at last year's jam.
"Basically, he was representing himself as being a lot better than he was, so we got stalled pretty much from the beginning," he said. "This year, I've got a good programmer, so we want to complete a game."
While most venues participating in the Game Jam feature onsite judges to evaluate participants' work and select favorites, the Silver Spring venue concentrated more on the participatory process, according to Pyramid Atlantic Director Jose Dominguez.
"We only really wanted folks to come out and enjoy making the games and taking part in the participatory process," he said. This was the art center's first year hosting the jam. "Maybe next year we'll get a little bit more involved with the judging, but for this year we just wanted to make sure that everybody had a good time. ... The games looked very cool and everybody had a lot of fun."
The Silver Spring teams finished ahead of schedule, with participants walking out of the cramped center at about 4 p.m. Sunday to the bright, post-snowstorm sunlight. Looking back on his experience, Dennis said he was overall pleased but would like the jam to include some judges or prizes to stoke his competitive spirit next year.
"We were actually expecting judges to be there and actually show up and give us comments on our work," he said. "But the people who are there, the people like yourself who are interested in the same thing ... that camaraderie is an experience that you don't really get anywhere else.