Nordic Game Jam in Copenhagen is a well known event among game developers and developers of board games all over the globe.
I had the privilege to start it all up in 2006 with researcher Jesper Juul, producer Jacob Buck and developer Gorm Lai with support from the then three man start up company Unity, which is now a global company too. A true Nordic start up adventure:
The first year, 2006, we gathered 40 people at the IT University over a weekend and created 8 games in 48 hours. The theme was: Create a prototype of a cooperative multiplayer game.
In 2007 that number grew to 80 people who created 12 games. Researcher Miguel Sicart and Anders Højsted had joined the group of arrangers and we chose 5 criteria out of which each game had to adhere to at least 3 of them. We also got funding from Nordic Game Program and major Danish game companies like IO Interactive. The game had to:
- contain a reference to Nordic culture (eg. stories/art/design/music)
- have more than one way to complete the game (eg. negotiations / kill all)
- contain H2O in some form (water/ice/steam)
- have a time limit
- be playable with one hand
In 2008 we counted 150 highly skilled developers and ended up with 19 games and Jesper Taxbøll joined the core group. The theme this year was ‘Taboo’: Taboo is an interesting topic because taboos are what we cannot see, what we cannot say, what we cannot do, and games are usually everything about what we can see, say, and do… We are not looking for cheap provocation, but for thoughtful, entertaining games that explore taboos in a mature, creative way.
Furthermore we had a collaboration with the One Laptop Per Child project (OLPD) and designed 3 contraints. The game had to:
- have a game loop (winnable, with a high score)
- be playable with a controller
- be multiplayer – either with NPCs or humans
In 2008 we got the attention of international communities and was named “The biggest game jam in the world”. A title that still sticks, I think.
Nordic Game Jam from 2009 -2012 has now grown to it absolute maximum in one venue – 350 participants – bare in mind it is still arranged by volunteers and enthusiasts from the Danish gaming community. Furthermore 270 other game jams are happening at the same time all over the world in 58 countries under the headline ‘Global Game Jam‘.
It is kind of nostalgic to rewind to the times when it all started in Copenhagen with three people, a pot of coffee, a talk about unfulfilled social and creative needs of local developers and a solution that was able to scale internationally…….
I’m looking forward to this year’s event January 18-20 – this weekend – even though my torch was passed on to other enthusiast in 2009. Now I just lean back and enjoy the inspiration that new game concepts from NGJ bring to my own activities as a leader, writer and teacher;-D
Check out the Nordic Game Jam website – maybe you will get some fresh ideas too.