Recap: GI Global Game Jam Winter 2019

JamThe Games Insititute (GI) Game Jam takes place every term. But, once a year, the event becomes a part of something larger: every Winter, the GI Game Jam becomes a satelite event for the internationally renowned Global Game Jam.

The Global Game Jam is the world's largest game jam event that joins participants from physical locations across the world all competing over the same weekend. As of 2018, the Global Game Jam had over 800 locations in more than 100 countries with over 8000 games created.

This year, the Global Game Jam took place January 25-27, organized by Karina Arrambide with support from Kateryna Morayko, and Joseph Tu (photographer). Like every GI Jam, this event kicked off with a Learn event led by the UW Game Dev club and then entered into the Make event which spanned the next two days.

grou[The theme for the Global Game Jam was "What Does Home Mean to You?" With this prompt to get them started, the 60 participants broke off into teams (or worked individually), delegated roles, and created a game.

Each group interpreted the theme differently, which reflects the diversity in interdisciplinary backgrounds of the participants at the jam. What was common among all groups was the absolute hard work and talent exhibited. In the end there was a total of 22 games created that you can check out here.

We already have big plans forming for the Spring 2019 GI Jam - hint: for the first time ever we will be offering the option to create a game in VR. Follow the Games Institute on Twitter to stay tuned.

Spotlight on the making of "Hole Sweet Hole"

We asked a team of two to reflect on their experiences at the Winter 2019 GI Global Jam so we could share what happened behind-the-scenes of the making of the game "Hole Sweet Hole".


Created by Lea Clarin and Caroline Kayko, "Hole Sweet Hole" puts you in the role of a young child trying to fit in after moving to a new country. You are helped by 3 odd, but interesting, non-player characters that become your friends as they introduce you to their clubhouse built into the hole of a tree. "Hole Sweet Hole" is a wholesome take on the difficult challenge of trying to figure out where you belong in a new, unfamiliar place.  

Lea and Caroline

Pictured: Lea Clarin (left), Caroline Kayko (right)

Lea's Take

If I told my 10-year-old self that in 12 years I would participate in a game jam and actually contribute to developing a game, I wouldn’t believe it. As a kid, video games absolutey fascinated me and the whole process behind making them was as mysterious as it was magical. This fascination has continued well into my adulthood and I’d say that it wasn’t really until actually physically being at the game jam that I took in that despite how magical the process is to me, it was something that I can do.

Signing up for the jam was kind of an impulse, but lately I’ve been playing a lot of games and thinking about how they’re made, mostly from an artistic and narrative perspective. I think that influenced what kind of game I saw myself wanting to do for the weekend. It also wasn’t actually until attending the LEARN session that I realized that I had absolutely no idea how to really design or code using the big name engines that were introduced, such as Unity or Unreal. I kind of panicked but at the same time, upped my determination to actually make something, anything, by the end of the jam. It pushed me to try to be more resourceful and use what I already have and what I already know to put our game together.

During the actual MAKE portion, I found myself not stressing as much as I thought I would be and I had so much fun. The atmosphere didn’t have too intense pressure, like with some hackathons I’ve experienced. My teammate Karo and I were also able to keep a pretty healthy schedule throughout the jam— taking frequent breaks, eating, and going home to clock a full night’s rest in. That really enhanced my experience, I had a blast and I felt awake, energetic, and alert.

I definitely recommend even people with essentially zero game-making experience, like myself and my teammate, to do game jams. You’d be surprised to know that as long as you keep an open mind and be resourceful (draw on your established strengths and what you already know!), it’s possible to make something, no matter how simple, that you can take pride in!

Lea Clarin is a freelance graphic designer and an undergraduate student at UWaterloo.

Caroline's Take

This past weekend was my first-ever Game Jam. My friend Lea and I impulsively bought tickets and made a pact to go out and learn something new.

The Learn event put on by the Games Institute beforehand was amazing; it was so well-attended they quickly ran out of chairs. The UW Game Dev Club went over how to use Git, Unity, and Unreal.

I'm definitely interested in learning more about 3D modelling in those engines, but for the purposes of the Game Jam, we made a visual novel in RenPy called "Hole Sweet Hole". It's a short game about being new in town and trying to make friends with the local kids who hang out in a treehouse.

characterscharacters 2

Lea did all the art, and I did the coding. It was great to see what others came up with as well, and very uplifting to see people from different teams helping each other out over the weekend.

Creating a game in 48 hours was exhausting but unbelievably rewarding!

Caroline Kayko just completed her Master of Library and Information Science at Western University. ​​​​​​She's spent her whole life playing games, but this is her first time making one.

To learn more about the history of the GI Game Jams, read this article.

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