So here's my detailed report of this year's Global Game Jam, which took place January 27-29, 2012.
Day 0 report.
Well, maybe not "Day 0", but the weeks and months leading up to the jam. This was a ton of work. I'm one of the GGJ Directors, meaning a group of six of us, on multiple continents. Organizing the GGJ was a flurry of Skype conference calls, contract negotiations with Drupal experts to get the website up-to-speed, working with the IGDA for funding, and working with the other directors for all the other things that are needed to make the jam go smoothly: Site registration, press releases, video keynotes, decisions on theme, website prep, research projects, IRC chats, and on and on. Extra challenges were how to schedule meetings between people in vastly different timezones, and a really useful site that I learned about is http://timeanddate.com, which has a meeting planner that makes it easy to see everybody's time (and date) at once.
For the keynote speeches, we also had to worry about subtitles! This year we had speakers in English, Japanese, and Spanish, and we coordinate a large team of volunteer translators to get all the different talks translated into as many different languages as possible, which required a different subtitle file for each language.
I was also regional coordinator for Latin America, so each time a new site was registered from Mexico, Central America, or South America, I would personally contact the organizer, setup a Skype chat and phone call, and doublecheck that all was well before approving the site to show up on the GGJ "Locations" list. Then I'd further followup with the organizers, especially if they were new and hadn't organized a jam before, to see if they needed any help in putting their site together. I was especially impressed by how many sites were showing up in Brazil (several different sites in Sao Paulo alone) and by the close-knit nature of the Argentinian organizers, who though they lived in very different parts of the country, all seemed to know each other and offer each other help with their different sites. Aside from the Directors' channel, that's probably the Skype channel that I hung out in the most often, was the Argentinian one, and I even invited a new organizer from Mexico into that channel, to take advantage of the supportive environment. It was kind of mind-boggling, that here I was sitting in St. Louis, Missouri, and inviting an organizer from a thousand miles south of me in Mexico, to join a chat that I was having with organizers thousands of miles even farther south, on a different side of the planet, and we were all chatting away at the same time about our common love, games!Among the directors, it was a special joy for us whenever we saw a new country signup, that had never had a jam site before. "Just approved Costa Rica, we're up to 43 countries now. And Peru. 44!" "Hungary!" We were rapidly breaking all past records. Last year, in January 2011, we had 6500 jammers, 174 sites, and 44 countries. By January 11th, 2012, three weeks before the event, we were up to 210 sites in 45 countries. The number of jammers was still fairly low, only 4800 by January 18th, but we knew that the rate of registrations was going to climb rapidly as we approached the jam, and would really spike during the jam itself, as people registered in order to get their games uploaded. By January 24th, three days before the jam, we had 6600 jammers, and we were getting dozens of new registrations per hour. Skype was just becoming a constant scroll, and I almost dreaded logging into it from a different computer, like between home, work, and iPhone, because every time I had to login to Skype on a different device, I'd have to wait while it downloaded the hundreds of messages that had come in over the last few hours.
On the downside, one bummer for us as Directors was that Nigeria had to pull out. They'd already registered a site, but there was serious rioting going on in the country, so they had to postpone the jam. They're still planning to hold a jam, but it won't be until March. As an interesting sidenote though, they've gotten funding for their jam from the Goethe Institute, and will be bringing in some professional game developers from around the world to help them with their first jam. Several people who were invited declined, because of security concerns, but I said yes! I've always wanted to go to Nigeria, and though I know it's risky, I still think it's a great opportunity (plus jams are always great fun!).Returning focus to St. Louis, Game Jam preparations reached a fever pitch in the days leading up to the jam, as I was not only working with the international organizers, but also coordinating the local St. Louis game jam. It was shaping up to be the biggest one ever, at an entirely new venue for us, University of Missouri, St. Louis (UMSL). So, as head organizer, I was wracking my brain to ensure that all details were covered: Space for scores of jammers, plenty of wireless access, sponsors for the meals, planning for how many drinks we'd need, dishes, etc, get the t-shirts ordered in time, maps and parking passes handled, schedule nailed down, etc. We got the t-shirts ordered *just* in time, two weeks prior to the jam. We weren't sure how many to order, but I figured that since we had 50 people at the last jam in summer 2011, 75 shirts should be enough. Boy was I wrong! We had nearly a hundred people signed up by that point. But oh well, we'd give out the shirts on a first-come, first-serve, and learn for the next time!The shirts arrived on the Thursday before the jam, and looked great. Artwork had been done by Scott Petrovic, the same talented guy who's done the artwork for all the website themes at stlgamejam.com. I was also busy pre-ordering food for the jam, like getting an order in with our Penn Station, where they'd kindly given up a discount; and ordering seven massive Pointersaurus pizzas to be delivered on Friday evening. And there was also good news, since at the last minute Riot Games came through as a sponsor, offering to cover not one but *three* meals for the jammers, which meant we had every single meal covered, dawn to midnight! I was ecstatic, and very thankful at the generosity of all the sponsors.
Okay, now on to the actual jam itself: