Waterloo Game Jam, also commonly called the GI Jam, is a thrice-annual, multi-day event hosted by The Games Institute (GI). Each of these events are open to the public and are designed to appeal to a wide variety of playful people.
The upcoming Jam: Winter Term 2018
- LEARN Event January 20
- MAKE and PLAY Events January 26th - January 28th
Whether you have an idea for a game design in the works, or if game design has never crossed your mind, there is room for everyone! All levels of expertise and preparation are welcome.
Every Game Jam weekend follows our "Learn, Make, Play" theme:
- LEARN: you can hear talks from GI and community experts about the tools and techniques involved in the design and creation of games.
- MAKE: you can build your own games from scratch along with helpful advice and guidance from our GI mentors. You can create your own game mechanic, gameful art, game characters and narrative, or try your hand at coding for your very own game prototype.
- PLAY: you can explore new kinds of games, try out some of the brand new games that were made at the DIY event itself, and give/receive feedback with local game experts.
The Games Institute hosts Proto-Play Nights every Thursday of the
academic year from 6pm until 9pm. In collaboration with the UW Game
Development Club, Proto-Play nights give the opportunity to meet and
collaborate with local game developers in a casual environment.
Attending the Game Development Club's weekly events will allow
Waterloo Game Jam participants an opportunity to meet up with other GI Jam-ers and discuss possible projects and teams. You will also get a
hands on experience to different aspects of the Game Making process in
the weeks leading up to the jam.
These events also serve as an excellent opportunity to learn more
about programs and software you may want to use during the event, so
that when the Main Event rolls around you will be prepared to start
creating your games right away! That said, the Jam will be fully
staffed to help you at each step as well as make the connections to
form a solid group!
The Waterloo Game Jam event is modeled after traditional “game jam” events like the Global Game Jam and Ludum Dare but with two important twists: a design focus and no deadlines! Throughout the weekend, you can work to take your game idea from dream to playable. Mentors from the Games Institute will be giving talks and tutorials about how to brainstorm, prototype, and develop your own games. Starting with paper prototypes and game concepts, the GI mentors will help you discover the world of games outside of simply programming, from game mechanics to narrative and artwork.
Although every event follows a slightly varied schedule, you can expect to hear talks and tutorials from local game developers and experts. The Main Event is hosted on the UW campus and provides space for both collaborative and creative work, as well as a designated Quiet Room for those who wish to code until they can code no more!
There is a small fee associated with attending the Game Jam (typically $15.00 per person). In order to confirm attendance, guests must pay ONLINE via the University of Waterloo Shopify channels before the day of the event. Details can be found on the specific event page/Eventbrite registration each term.
How do I find out about the next up-coming Game Jam event?
The Waterloo Game Jam events happen three times per year, typically once every academic term at UW. To get all of the up-to-date information and event invites, join the GI events mailing list from the GI home page.
All other inquires can be emailed to our events coordinator.
Where does the Game Jam weekend happen?
The Main Event is typically held in the Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum Nano Canter (QNC) building on the UW main campus.
Full location details will be provided on each event page.
Is there parking available for the event?
For those in need of parking for the Main Event, there are a variety of pay-and-display lots available at UW. Check out the campus map for further details on where to go.
What does the cost of my ticket get me?
Each Game Jam weekend costs approximately $15, with all the proceeds going right back into making the event better. For LEARN+MAKE, ticket sales will help subsidize the cost of the lunch that will be provided during the main event. This means that the sooner participants register for a ticket, the easier it will be for the organizers to estimate how much food to purchase. In addition, ticket sales help cushion the cost of running and promoting the event (booking space, poster printing). All of the event staff and mentors are volunteers.
As each event is slightly different, the cost may also be slightly different from term to term. For a more accurate ticket cost and specific details of what it includes, please visit the event page for the Game Jam weekend you will be attending!
What's the Global Game Jam?
The Global Game Jam is a community effort to build and foster a stronger world wide game development community. The GGJ encourages people with all kinds of backgrounds to participate and contribute to this global spread of game development and creativity. You don't need to understand what it is coming in, but feel free to go here and read up on it if you wish. In January 2016, the GGJ had over 600 locations in 93 countries create 6866 games in one weekend! We are excited to be one of the locations for the 2017 jam. The GGJ provides themes for those who want to kick-start their development process, but using it will be non-mandatory. You can register as a participant in the Global Game Jam at the uWaterloo location via this link.
Do I have to be qualified to volunteer?
Not necessarily—we do need people just to help with setup/cleanup/registration/lunch. If you want to do a talk or tutorial, you should have some confidence that you know something that would be useful or interesting. If you say you can do a talk or tutorial I’ll most likely believe you—I’m not interested in stopping any enthusiastic volunteers.
Do I have to stay the entire time?
No! We’re going to organize volunteers into shifts. You are, of course, free (and encouraged!) to participate even when not “on duty.”
Do I need to be an expert game developer?
Absolutely not! Waterloo Game Jam is all about having fun and learning about games! If you’ve ever played a game of Monopoly, Charades, or Super Mario, you can make your own game!
Our advice: Keep it simple and focus on creating something fun! Start with what you know/like and remix from there!
There is so much more that goes into games other than coding and programing. You can create a simple game mechanic, some artwork, the game's narrative and characters, rather than an entire game itself.
What about adding a ‘shareholder’ mechanic to Monopoly? Or adding sheep-stealing alien invaders to Settlers of Catan? How about making a bizarro version of Pong where players control the ball instead of the paddles? Or a tablet version of Twister for your fingers? Or a multi-player version of QWOP? Or a platform game where you race against a rainbow?
The possibilities are endless, so no matter what your gaming experience, all you need is an open mind!
Will everyone be working on their own game?
We encourage MAKE participants to form teams for the event. You’re free to go lone wolf, but it’s been our experience that working in teams helps round out a group’s collective experience. Don’t worry if you aren’t able to put a crew together beforehand either, we’ll be helping people team up at the start of the jam too.
In fact, some of our most successful games have come from teams that had never met prior to their first Game Jam!
How does a team code collaboratively? Are we going to have to pass a bunch of USB keys around to share files?
Developing games in teams is a lot of fun but it also takes a little bit of careful book keeping to make sure everyone is contributing to the same code base. Even if you’re participating as a one-person team, keeping track of different versions of your work can be important. That’s where “source control” systems like Git come in.
Don’t know what “Git” is? Don’t worry! We will have GI experts at the event giving tutorials and helpful talks to explain the basics. It’s so simple and useful you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it!
Are there any recommended tools I should consider to help with making games?
Using the right tools can save a lot of time when tinkering and prototyping new game ideas. Below are some sample tools we recommend at the Games Institute and what’s even better, most of them are FREE!
For analog board games and party games, nothing beats good old pencil and paper! We also try to have some cardboard, clay, and tape on hand.
For video games, the recommend tools are little more new-school and diverse:
Engines and Editors
Tiled map editor is great for grid based (including isomatric) map creation.
Piskel is a nifty online sprite editor.
Bfxr is a great, simple way for non-audiophiles to generate a wide variety of retro-style sound effects for use in their games. Twiddle the various knobs and experiment with combinations of basic waveforms to create as many free to use sound effects as you need.
Various sprite archives are also a good place to find a variety of pixel art and sprite sheets to use if you lack artistic skill. Be mindful however: many such sites feature art assets from commercial games and so are subject to appropriate copyright laws. As an example, you are typically free to use sprites of Mario or Sonic for educational purposes like the GI Jam, but you cannot use those assets in commercial games! You wouldn’t want someone ripping off and profiting from your creative work, would you?
FreeSound.org and similar websites are also a great to find more true-to-life pre-recorded sound effects. Like commercial sprites though, many of the sound effects found on these sites carry specific license restrictions. Sometimes they’re for non-commercial use only and sometimes its as simple as making sure to credit the original authors in your own games.
Will there be any special equipment available?
In terms of slightly fancier equipment, we do have a few things for participants to experiment with: The Games Institute will be loaning out a number of multi-touch monitors, Nexus 7 Android tablets, DualShock 4 and XBox 360 controllers for interested teams to develop with. We’ll trade you for a piece of ID (student card, drivers license, etc.) while you borrow the equipment.
For the bread-and-butter equipment, the Game Jam weekend is a BYOL (“bring your own laptop”). Given the wide variety of platforms, engines, tools, and software that teams might want to use for their games, we don’t have the capacity to provide participants with individual computers. The Jam room does have individual power ports at almost every desk however, and we will be providing password credentials for non-students connect to the local University WiFi network.