Global Game Jam 2022 - My Perspective - D4RKM47R1X
Finding Nerd Otaku
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the year was 2019 and I was browsing the internet from the Hillcrest computer lab when I was still in high school. I was watching a “Worlds” replay on YouTube (Worlds, is an annual international League of Legends Esports tournament). Before I knew it I was looking up other conventions/tournaments themed on gaming/technology and nerd culture in general. After looking at ComicCon, AnimeCon, The International (TI) and many others, I started to wonder if there were any Zambian conventions (the idea honestly felt preposterous). That’s when I found LScon. For me LScon was like paradise, several like-minded Zambians nerding out in one place. My friends weren’t as enthusiastic as I was when I told them about it and school became busier so I somehow came to the conclusion that LScon was just another teenage excuse to get drunk.
For me LScon was like paradise, several like-minded Zambians nerding out in one place.
A few months later out of luck I happened upon an article called “the time machine “in an airport magazine called Nkwazi®, it was about a small group that bought comic books and resold them in Zambia to promote nerd culture. They mentioned having a stand every year at LScon and that was enough to rekindle my interest and I did more research on them. I later found out about NerdOtaku because they are sister organizations. I’ve followed their social media since.
Finding the Game Jam
One day as I was scrolling through the NerdOtaku Facebook group, I found the Global Game Jam poster, impressed by what I saw; I signed up via all the links and joined the Discord server. It was a hybrid event lasting for 10 days total, 8 days online and 2 days at the physical venue. I was too busy to be present for the first 2 days but managed to join on the 3rd day. On the Discord server, I found 3 teams, blue, yellow and green. I picked the blue team at random and luckily they hadn’t made any groundbreaking progress. They welcomed me and I aided in the game planning. I like how we all got along from the get go despite being complete strangers and we consistently met every day to discuss our workflow and distribution.
Our Project (Polar Opposites)
This year’s theme for the Global Game Jam was “duality”, which I prefer to describe as “an instance of opposition or contrast between two concepts or two aspects of something”. Taking this into account, our team made a two dimensional platformer puzzle game with the Unity™ game engine. Its mechanics and story kept duality at heart, in the game the player controls 2 characters each with their own distinct quirks that contrasts that of the other and must switch between them in order to solve an assortment of puzzles that lie in their path. The characters in the game are of black heritage and are designed with inspiration from modern afrofuturism or “afropunk”.
The characters in the game are of black heritage and are designed with inspiration from modern afrofuturism or “afropunk”.
As for the plot here is a synopsis:
“A kind old man sends a group of adventurers on a quest to retrieve a “stolen” orb from the neighboring kingdom, in doing so they disturb the balance of the two lands and this unleashed disorder upon both lands. Two of the adventurers take it upon themselves to return the orb to its rightful place and restore balance”
I am fluent in the C# programming language and conversant with Unity so I was in charge of game mechanics and development.
It was finally time for the physical event. I got to Bongohive, Olympia Park where the event was being held in Lusaka. It was easy to locate. A few minutes later it all began officially. There were only 6 other people in the room, none from my team. Everyone sat down silently glancing at their phone screens and computer monitors. They were all wearing masks but they all seemed to have a blank expression on their faces. I was a bit uncomfortable at first because the room felt too serious. I had a feeling that most of us were introverts, which meant eventually someone had to break the ice if we were going to interact for the rest of the day. I was visibly the youngest person there but that didn’t faze me and I started a conversation with a guy named John. John was new to the whole thing and was unaware of the online part of the event. I asked him to join our team and help out, he didn’t know much about game development so I introduced him to it all. After about an hour our third member Tendai arrived, she was the team’s writer and background artist. She immediately set up and started working. Considering our team only had 3 members on site, I was pretty stressed. Dennis, our team leader, was in Kitwe but still worked with us via Discord. I spent most of my time writing code for the game. It was tempting to take breaks every now and then because the 20 or so people in the room where all talking about my favorite things.
It was tempting to take breaks every now and then because the 20 or so people in the room where all talking about my favorite things.
At around 1pm we had a lunch break courtesy of NerdOtaku (sponsored by Liquid Intelligent Technologies), the food was great. During lunch I finally felt the freedom to interact with everyone. When we got back to work I got involved in the group discussions. As we talked about Final Fantasy, Persona, Pokémon, The Fighting Game Community (FGC), programming and sang along to Kpop and anime openings, I felt an indescribable sense of belonging. It seemed like I could work on anything so long as I was surrounded by this community.
I felt an indescribable sense of belonging. It seemed like I could work on anything so long as I was surrounded by this community.
Before I knew it, it was time to go home. We took pictures and went our separate ways. The second day played out a lot like the first one, the only difference being that most of us had bypassed our introverted shells and went ahead and interacted from the get go. By presentation time I had implemented and tested the mechanics of our game, carefully organized the scripts and designs our artists made, all the bells and whistles. We had a live stream where some people talked about their experiences and displayed some game footage and then the Game Jam was over.
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