What did you do with your Australia Day weekend? I bet you didn’t dedicate a full 48 hours to making a whole game, from scratch, did you?
Well, if you did, you were probably taking part in the Global Game Jam, the annual worldwide competition where designers, artists, programmers and people with other skills get together and create games based around a theme, which is only revealed at the beginning of the event.
This year's theme was “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”, and there were some really interesting interpretations of that, across a wide variety of game types and genres.
Of the 4,290 games made by 23,198 participants in 488 sites across 72 countries, here are five of the coolest ones that I played from the folks working here in Melbourne.
They’re all available to play or download for free from the Global Game Jam website.
Team: Winston Tang, Nicholas McDonnell, Justin Whitfort, Hadleigh Barton-Ancliffe, David Nemirovsky
ScreenCheat is one of those games built on a structure we’ve all played before, but with a very clever twist. It’s a four-player split-screen competitive first-person shooter, BUT! Your opponents are invisible to you, so the only way to locate them is by committing that most heinous gamer faux pas: you have to screen cheat.
You’ll need to glance into the other players’ screens and line up where they are with where you are, made easier by the game’s bright colour palette. It completely changes the dynamic of a standard shooter match.
Even with the tight deadline, the team managed to slip in four game modes, including Deathmatch, and variations on other classic set ups.
Team: Ivan Neeson, Tom Greenaway, James Greenaway, David Thompson, Sean Affleck
This platformer-puzzle game uses the theme to explore how someone’s perspective may differ from everyone else's. The two players each have their own monitor, and must co-operate to solve puzzles that they can each only see half of.
Communication is key in Check Mates; you never really know what your partner can see, so it’s up to you to warn each other of dangers and important items, and work together to get through the levels.
Team: Matthew Elvey Price, Luke Hus, Sandra Gibson
This one caught my eye from a distance. In front of a laptop sat a pile of coloured cut-out shapes with a webcam hanging over it. The screen had a little bug character on one side and a door on the other, separated by a large blank area. Your goal is to fill that space with the shapes, arranged into platforms to help the little guy traverse the level.
It’s an interesting hybrid between a platformer and a Tetris-y block puzzle game. With a little refinement and polish, Kamikiri has the potential to grow into a truly unique experience, really forcing you to stop and think about what needs to go where – especially as later stages add obstacles and hazards to work around.
Brow Brow Party Walrus Exciting
Team: Spencer Rose, George McKinnin, Simon Boxer, Michael Trott, Nathan Antony
After playing this one, my new lifelong dream is to one day have my very own Party Walrus, but until then, I’ll have to settle for this delightful rhythm romp.
In the spirit of Just Dance Dance Central Revolution or whatever it’s called, Brow Brow Party Walrus Exciting asks you to match movements in time with arrows scrolling up the screen to music. The catch? You make these movements with your eyebrows.
In addition to the genre’s standard levels of player goofiness (a great source of entertainment for spectators), you’ll need to wear neon pink markers on your face, so the webcam can pick up your movements. Party Walrus was a crowd favourite, winning the local Accessibility and Most Original awards.
Team: Andrew Maxwell, Scott Aquilina, Josh “Khada” Carter, Matthew Korda, Frazer Burrows, Michael Trott
If your first thought when hearing the theme of “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” was “what a philosophical wank”, then Adversarial Manifesto might be the game for you.
It won the local award for Best Interpretation of the theme, by providing a metaphysical examination of the neo-linguistic conventions of video games. By which I mean, it’s a game about pulling nonsense academic phrases out of your arse, and using them in a sort of scholarly rap battle.
You pick from a list of cliché academic terms, lock it in and begin firing it at your opponent. If you score a hit, that word is added to your sentence, and you select another one. There are conjunctions scattered around, which you can use at any time to structure the big impressive words into a cohesive sentence. Use an exclamation mark to signal the end of the sentence, and your peer will review it on a scale of “mainstream” to “revelation”, and take damage accordingly.
The best part is to gather the phrases you can create, which the game will save for you like one of those online thesis generators. I’d love to see the team continue developing this project: it would be “probably the evisceration of the mainstream”.