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Global Game Jam (GGJ) is the world’s largest game jam, a competition similar to a hackathon in which people come together to make video games based on a common theme. What started out as a relatively small competition has grown dramatically, with the number of games produced going from only 370 in 2009 to over 2,100 in the 2012 competition.

The 2013 contest took place over the weekend of January 25th at 319 various jam sites in 63 countries, 38 US States, and 6 Canadian Provinces. Altogether, 11,474 “jammers” submitted a record-setting 3,248 games. The theme for this year’s Game Jam was “heartbeat.” At the Austin competition, which was hosted by Skillpoint Alliance and the Austin chapter of the International Game Developer’s Association, 107 talented programmers, artists, sound designers, and musicians showed up to participate.

Two UT students did exceptionally well in Austin’s Global Game Jam 2013. Aaron Belcher competed by himself, an impressive feat in itself, and won first place with a two person, cooperative game called Guiding Light. When asked about the game, Aaron said “It was a really satisfying feeling, seeing someone play the game I had worked on, actually get into it, try to figure out what to do, and get frustrated at their partner to the point where they almost start yelling at each other. It was kind of funny, too, because a lot of puzzles were solved in ways I hadn't intended or thought of, so these people actually taught me a bit about how you can play the game.”

Demo of Guiding Light

The second place prize was awarded to a team of eight, one of whom was freshman Matthew Allen. Matthew’s team created a game called Lurcher, a multi-player survival horror game where one player acts as a monster and stalks the other players through a forest. While other members of the team worked on visual and auditory features, Matt worked on programming the game. Although he admits to losing a lot of sleep, Matthew called the competition a “great experience” and recommends it to anyone who might be interested!

Congratulations to both Aaron Belcher and Matthew Allen!

Article by Katherine Gordon

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