Gamer Alert: Global Game Jam Returns To FIU

By Mathew Messa/Staff Writer

Students with a passion for gaming, coding, and creation will be thrilled to learn that this year’s Global Game Jam is set to take place at the end of the month. 

From Jan. 31 through Feb. 2, the University will have their very own “jam site” located in the PG6 Tech Station. The event is designed to help spark global interest in game development, with physical jam sites located all across the world.

This event begins Friday, Jan. 31,  afternoon when students show up and watch a keynote video that is laced with tips provided by leading game developers and reveals a central theme for the games students will be developing throughout the jam. From here, students are challenged with designing either a physical or video game from scratch.

Students will have the opportunity to work with contemporary game developing software used by professionals in the industry, such as Unity and Unreal Engine.

Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE) is spearheading the University’s “jam site.” This marks the second year in a row that the organization will be taking full control of the event, according to jam site organizers and co-leaders of the UPE program Hackers, Kevin Losada and Yasmine Abdrabo.

“I’ve always been passionate about organizing events where people come together and work on projects,” said Abdrabo, a recent alum with a degree in Computer Science. Abdrabo, who was a leader of the Hackers program for 2019, is planning on passing on the mantle to Losada for 2021.

According to Abdrabo, the event is relatively non-competitive in comparison with other “hack-a-thons” hosted by UPE, however at the end of the 48-hour development window, student teams will have a chance to play games others have created, and rather than a panel of judges, participants will collectively vote on the best game. 

The team with the best game will be awarded a prize.

The event opens a myriad of opportunities for students, regardless of their major or experience level.

“A lot of people actually don’t attend the Game Jam because they’re worried that they need to have knowledge about [game development], but really they don’t, that’s why we have workshops during Global Game Jam,” said Abdrabo.

If students aren’t comfortable with the workshops that are held during the event, an additional workshop will be held just before the event kicks off on Friday evening.

According to Losada, who is currently a junior at the University studying Computer Science, and was also a participant in the Global Game Jam last year, the event opened him up to a new side of the gaming community.

“It wasn’t just about working in an individual team, but with the community in general,” said Losada, “There were people who were involved in other teams that actually came over and helped us out, we got some ideas by watching other teams, and there’s a lot of activities during the jam-like game tournaments that show you that not only is everyone here passionate about making games but about games in general.”

Apart from being immersed in a collaborative community of gamers and game makers, Losada also mentioned that local game developers have visited the jam site in the past exchanging business cards, which promises a potential opportunity for networking.

More information about the event can be found at https://go.fiu.edu/ggj.

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