The overhead monitor’s demonic glow screamed at our rag tag, sleep deprived four man team. I ran from one computer to another in a desperate attempt to duct tape our hollow Frankenstein of a game together. The glow was thanks to a large countdown timer that hung over our heads like a guillotine. It read 1 hour 30 minutes. Everything was on fire (figuratively speaking) and nothing was working. This was my first 24 hour game jam.
Credit: Computer on Fire
The game jam began the day before at 3pm. The theme: cold. My three teammates and I set out to create a masterpiece, a game that would bring our competition to tears and win us that oh so glorious $500 prize. We also decided that what better way to market our future masterpiece than with a live stream?
With an audience that never broke ten, the four of us molded our collective concepts into a game idea centered on man who ice skated for a living in defiance of numerous satanic Zamboni’s. With that fresh idea, 24 hours to birth it into digital existence, and a roomful of our hallmates watching back home, we went to work. It became apparent very early on that we may have flown too close to the sun. We had created a concept for a game we could in no way complete in 24 hours.
Around hour 22, after hours of futile coding and my onset of the thousand yard stare, the team realized that we were running out of time. I can now expertly suggest that by hour 22 of a 24 hour game jam, it is a bit too late to change course. We became like crew members of the Titanic. We were hurtling for an iceberg that was the final presentation of our sloppy, nearly non-existent game, and we were frantically trying to get our poor game to the lifeboats.
We salvaged bits and pieces of our original and innovative vision. We got the main menu to work and look presentable, thanks to our artist. Our man skater protagonist, Fred Fjord, could effectively skate across a barren landscape, both chained to the laws of momentum and free to go flying wildly off screen.
While this might seem like a wholly bleak and horrible time, it wasn’t. We were able to create those cool, murderous Zamboni’s I mentioned, again thanks to our artist, and for that I will always feel a whimpering wisp of pride. We no doubt learned a lot along the way though. The four of us had fun working together, and that, along with our friends watching the live stream, made those 24 hours feel nowhere near as empty as our game was.
Eventually, that menacing 24 hour countdown struck zero, we turned the live stream off, asked our viewers to pray for us, and then presented the shambles that was our game.
And with the last shreds of my disintegrated pride, I manned the mouse and keyboard for our presentation as one of my game designer teammates began to explain where we went so horribly wrong. I booted the game up, and I felt the iceberg strike the hull of our vulnerable little Titanic. I was going to go down with the ship. If I had a tiny sad violin I would have fiddled it furiously.
It was more stressful than romantic. I remember my teammate’s response during the presentation when asked what was one thing we would have liked to added to the game. He responded with “well, we would have liked to have added some gameplay.” This elicited laughs from our fellow developers in the room. I laughed on the outside.
Image Credit: electropunk