First Global Game Jam 2019 Lahore!

Global Game Jam 2019 Lahore

On 25thJanuary 2019: Two lone organizers made their way to DaftarKhwan-central. Their mission: “Host the first Global Game Jam (GGJ) site in Lahore”. After making all their preparations in PixelArt Games Academy – Islamabad, Aamir Arslan Afzal and Hassan Fajri had rolled into Lahore on train last night, both physically and mentally prepared for one bone-breaking weekend. They climbed the stairs to Daftarkhwan office, as the Lahore sun was warming the chilly morning air at about 10:30 AM.

The staff of Daftarkhwan were awaiting their arrival. These were somewhat familiar circumstances as Daftarkhwan had joined hands with PixelArt Games Academy, the host organization behind this Global Game Jam site, as a venue partner for any event they organize in Lahore. The 2 GGJ organizers along with the venue staff began preparing the sofa room for the start of the event.

By 1:00 PM, the first few participants started trickling in, and by 3:00 PM, the big sofa room was almost packed full. It was time to start the presentation and tell everyone why they had come. Participants were told about Global Game Jam and how it works. For the next 48 hours they will be scrambling eggs in the mornings and computer code + art assets for the rest of the time, to make a game based on a mystery ‘Theme’. This theme is kept secret all over the world, and revealed at 5:00 PM (Local Time) Friday, at every GGJ site on the planet.

But before the theme could be revealed it was time to get these participants warmed up as most, if not all, were first-time jammers. So Aamir And Hassan had a little activity planned out. For 1-hour participants were asked to Brainstorm game ideas based on the GGJ theme from last year called “Transmission”. This was a much-needed exercise and many participants, although skilled, had never done a game jam before at all. They were also asked to make their teams and do it in groups, to help smoothen out the process of making a team later in the actual jam. The ideas presented were all very interesting, some brainstorming “radio tower sims” and some “Anti-Disease Tower Defense” games. But the amount of mentoring and refinement needed to make it happen meant participants knew what to expect and this saved time from the actual game jam which was now half an hour away. Then everyone took a break.

Some snacks were served which included biscuits, sandwiches and drinks on the house by PGA, while DaftarKhwan provided free tea and water throughout the entire event. Now the clock was on countdown and everyone was waiting for the ‘Big Theme Reveal’!

At 5:00 PM, the keynote video of GGJ 2019 started playing on the big screen, and everyone was hooked. Aamir and Hassan were already excited as this year the keynote speakers were Rami Ismail (Vlambeer), Brie Code & Eve Thomas (TRU LUV) and Limpho Moeti (Free Lives). Two of these individuals Brie and Rami are international mentor’s in PGA. The keynote video started off by showing the sponsors of GGJ 2019, the biggest of which were Unreal and Mixer, followed by the keynotes from the four speakers, each containing tips and advice for the jammers, and lastly the ‘Theme’.

The theme is contained within a 3-minute short, and this year, it started off with individuals telling participants what their home means to them. Individuals from all over the world. Speaking in their native language. Arabs, Chinese, Korean, African. The video ended with the words “What does Home mean to you”. And this was it, the secret theme of GGJ 2019.

The jammer’s having decided their teams already started brainstorming immediately. Some had trickled in while the keynote video was playing and so were fixed together with any team which had enough room. At last there were 7 teams, each with 4 participants.

Each team brainstormed ideas for their game, while Aamir and Hassan were all over the place helping, suggesting, giving feedback; two organizers in a sea of jammers. Teams were encouraged to keep the brainstorming short, and the idea simple. Most teams were able to come up with a strong idea, and those who were lost were given some guidelines to think about. As the time became late, participants with finalized ideas began packing up, and making plans on where to settle in to work. DaftarKhwan remained open till 9:00 PM, so the organizers started wrapping up by 8:30 PM.

Next day, the jammers started trickling in by 9:00 AM, and settled down for another day of the Game Jam. They had all worked in their homes and personal offices, and many had their individual game modules laid out. On this Saturday, the organizing duo had a lunch party planned, and the main course was pizza, decided unanimously by all the jammers. But first it was time to hand out some goodies. Participants of Global Game Jam Lahore got hold of the PGA game-dev badges. These badges would help people identify a general game-dev skill type. Artists, Programmers, Designers & Producers. They weren’t just for the game jam, they were gifts to take home and remember the organizers by. It was also at this time the public registration was officially closed.

The jammers continued to work on their ideas, but while they were doing that, another surprise was on his way up in the elevator at DaftarKhwan. The name of this surprise was Shayan Zaeem, Co-Founder of both Caramel Tech. Studio and Fizz.io.

He had dropped by to help with the Game Jam and was very enthusiastic about it. He really appreciated the efforts of PGA in organizing events like these and went around listening to each team’s idea and giving them advice and feedback. Few individuals even took the time out to connect with his and discuss some of their plans outside of the jam. Shayan gave the Lahore jam-site a solid 2 hours of his time, and halfway through his time there, the pizza arrived. Hungry participants made their way to the sofa room where the DaftarKhwan staff served the pizza. By the time people were finished eating, Shayan took his leave, and took some of the PGA badges for his team.

The rest of the day smoothened out into an uninterrupted session of solid game development, because everyone had a game to make and it’s got to be ready by tomorrow. Some left early to go to their night-time workstations and work there, while some stayed at the site till the end of the day at 9:00 PM.

Sunday, the final day, jammers arrived at 9:00 AM, and this day was crunch day. While everyone just settled into their work Hassan started setting up his streaming equipment. The Lahore Jam-site went live on Mixer, one of the sponsors of Global Game Jam, and kept streaming for the rest of the day till just before the jam ended.

The game submission time ends 5:00 PM Sunday, and both organizer and participant scrambled to get the games finished and uploaded. The final hour was the tensest as submission time came close, but some game uploads got stuck. Lots of frantic messaging was taking place from all over Pakistan as the few final submissions were being uploaded and the central GGJ organization was scrambling to provide alternatives and support to sites with jammers still uploading. Finally, by 6:30 PM, all games from Lahore Jam site were uploaded and the game jam was over.

Everyone took a breather and move to the sofa room to showcase their game on the big screen. Each team showed their game and told everyone else about the inspiration for their idea. Once the presentations were done the event was officially over and everyone said their goodbyes.

The jammers praised the efforts of both organizers, and made it clear they wanted more events such as these to happen. They were especially happy to find out this wont be the last event PGA does in Lahore, and they were excited for them.

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