Fayette County

Fifth annual Global Game Jam attracts record number of participants in Lexington

Michael Von, Tim Knowlton, Al Baker, and John Meister, of all Lexington, collaborate to finish the game “Midnight Munchies” at the Global Game Jam Competition sponsored by RunJumpDev and Bluegrass Community and Technical College on Sunday, January 31st, 2016 in Lexington, KY. Over 30 people participated locally in the Global Game Jam event along with over 20,000 others world-wide. All games are OpenSource and uploaded to Global Game Jam’s website to encourage the melding of ideas to form new games. This year’s theme “ritual” was released at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016.
Michael Von, Tim Knowlton, Al Baker, and John Meister, of all Lexington, collaborate to finish the game “Midnight Munchies” at the Global Game Jam Competition sponsored by RunJumpDev and Bluegrass Community and Technical College on Sunday, January 31st, 2016 in Lexington, KY. Over 30 people participated locally in the Global Game Jam event along with over 20,000 others world-wide. All games are OpenSource and uploaded to Global Game Jam’s website to encourage the melding of ideas to form new games. This year’s theme “ritual” was released at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016. Herald-Leader

Using bracelets he bought at Wal-Mart and a device called a MaKey MaKey, Matt Hudgins hooked himself up to his computer on Sunday.

Hudgins tapped either his left or right foot depending on whether an arrow pointing to the left or the right appeared on the screen in front of him. If he got all the movements right and matched notes that were on the bottom of the screen, rain would fall and a flower would grow.

At least that’s what the game was supposed to do. But the rain and the flower hadn’t been designed yet.

“Actually, I didn’t get that far,” Hudgins said before he demonstrated his newest game at the fifth annual Global Game Jam held at Bluegrass Community and Technical College and sponsored by Lexington nonprofit RunJumpDev and Bluegrass Business Development Partnership.

Hudgins was one of 40 people to participate in the event that gives participants 48 hours — from 5 p.m. Friday to 5 p.m. Sunday — to develop a video game around a central theme. Nine different teams participated at the Lexington site this year.

“This is our fifth year and it is the most participants we have ever had,” said John Meister, president of RunJumpDev. Some of the participants are part of Bluegrass Community and Technical College’s video gaming design program. Others are developers. Some participated via Skype from as far away as Taiwan and Australia. One participant drove from Indianapolis for the event.

Globally, more than 20,000 people were expected to participate in the weekend Global Game Jam event at sites all over the world. Lexington was one of four different sites in Kentucky.

All the teams are given the same theme to develop their games around. This year, the theme was “ritual.”

For Hudgins, ritual made him think of rain and rituals surrounding rain.

Ritual for Jeff Wright and his team was the genesis for their game“Wichual.” In that game, witches must complete certain challenges to advance to the next level. If the player is successful, the message “You wand!” popped up on the screen.

Wright is a designer with Super Soul, one of four Lexington companies that specialize in video game development. Wright is also a member of RunJumpDev. The Global Game Jam on Sunday is one of many different gaming events RunJumpDev hosts all year, Wright said.

No team was awarded “best game” on Sunday. But there were other prizes such as “Most likely to spawn new swear words” or “Ignored the theme the hardest.”

The goal of the Global Game Jam is not to be the best, said Tim Burch, an instructor at Bluegrass Community and Technical College. It’s about developing different skills, Birch said. Those skills will help his students get jobs.

“We teach what companies tell us they need students to know to get jobs,” Birch said.

Meister agreed. Not everyone who participated Sunday may go into video game development but they may go into programming or graphic design. In addition to the four companies that develop video games in Lexington, there are now 10 different start-ups that do some type of video game programming, Meister said.

That makes Lexington one of the hot spots for video game development in the state of Kentucky.

“The goal is to grow the gaming industry in Lexington and the rest of the state,” Meister said.

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall

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