A couple of weeks ago, several of us from the Unity Copenhagen office took part in the Nordic Game Jam . With around 730 participants, it’s probably the largest game jam in Europe. I’d been told in the past that I absolutely had to try this, but all the other game jams I’ve been to before were much smaller, so I didn’t know what to expect. Here’s what went down!
People from different countries flew in to Copenhagen for the two day jam that took place at Aalborg University, which consists of these two enormous buildings by the water connected by a bridge. The view from the bridge was beautiful and great to catch the sunrise from on a clear day!
While the actual jam kicked off on a Friday, we started getting into Nordic Game Jam mode the day before. A large group of game devs from Poland came to visit us at the Unity Copenhagen office, what later became known as the Polish Invasion. After a day of hanging out, we gathered the troop and went to the NGJ pre-party in Christiania where lots of dancing, playing indie games like Progress and catching up with friends took place. There were a couple of game journalists accompanying the game devs and they wrote a nice piece about their visit to our office.
Once in place at Aalborg University for NGJ, we set up a booth where participants could stop by and chat with our HR manager Anders about landing a job at Unity and get temporary Unity tattoos! NGJ interviewed Anders about working at Unity.
While part of the audience may have been a bit tired after the pre-party, you could sense the atmosphere of excitement the next day. I gathered a group of friends from Sweden, Poland and Germany, which turned out to be a really cool team.
The theme of the game jam, “OBVIOUS”, was revealed after a day filled with talks, including one from James Portnow of Extra Credits and a keynote from Steve Swink. What’s pretty cool about game jams in general is that anyone can participate, whether you have created several games or are completely new to game development. Extra Credits recently worked with us on a series of videos about getting started with game development and I believe game jams to some degree fill the same purpose.
Everyone split up into their groups, moved into rooms or spaces for dev:ing, started brainstorming game ideas and seeing what skills everyone had that could be put to use. You could hear lively discussions going on and feel the atmosphere of creative minds interchanging genius thoughts. Different groups had different methods of getting their thought processes going, pinning googly eyes on pineapples and spontaneous dancing took place.
The NGJ organisers made sure any type of game could be created during the jam. There was equipment for creating arcade games, material for board games, 3D printers, Oculus DK2’s, joysticks, and so on. The best part was being able to use the sound lab, which looked insane when I walked in the first time, a dark room covered in enormous spikes pointing directly at you, so quiet I could hear my own thoughts. I could use this room when performing the voice acting for the role of a pregnant woman in our game, which was a pretty interesting experience as well. Getting to scream as loud as I could in a room all by myself is not an everyday activity. My voice did however take quite a beating and I was still recovering the week after from a sore throat. Totally worth it.
Though there were teams that got started on their games on Friday night, my team first decided on a specific game idea during our Saturday morning meeting. It really was a matter of “our deadline to decide on something is before lunchtime and after that we work work work.” And so we did. Feeling confident, we all popped back up into the space we’d taken over the night before and started producing. We split the areas up well having quite a large group, so each person was able to dedicate their time to art, code, design and audio. The group sizes at NGJ varied from 2 person teams to 6 persons. A few lovely souls also jumped between teams to help out in any area they could, which was super awesome.
Several groups stayed up late or pulled all-nighters to finish up their games for Sunday’s submission deadline. I believe around 140 games were submitted, so presentations took place in separate rooms where participants were able to vote for their favourite. Several of the games were made using Unity and you can play many of them on NGJ15’s itch.io site. One of the best things about game jams is that you never know the outcome of what people are working on, the projects typically start out pretty comprehensible, but can quickly turn ridiculous, which makes them that much more memorable.
A ceremony was held after the absolute final voting had taken place and the jury had made their decisions on which games were the best in each category. Awards were handed out, speeches were given, songs were sung and everyone was happy with the results. A great game jam, making new friends and just having a swell time is the summary of the weekend.
But before you stop reading, check out a couple of my favourite submissions:
There were many more good games, you can find a complete list and play some on NGJ15’s itch.io site.
Here are a couple of games made by the teams that included some Unity folks:
Black Hole Battle: not #madewithunity, but a board game instead!
Once again, a big thank you to the organisers for creating such a fun and memorable event, we look forward to participating next year which also happens to be NGJ’s 10 year anniversary!