(after the fact report of day 1 of the Global Game Jam, written by one of the directors, Elonka Dunin)
DAY 1 (January 27, 2012)
I got to the site a few hours earlier, around 1 pm, to meet with our UMSL host, Dinesh Mirchandani. He’d thoughtfully already set up some coffee and cookies for the folks doing setup, but to be honest, I was too busy to take a bite until hours later. We double-checked that wi-fi was working, sorted the t-shirts by size to give out, setup a registration table, distributed flyers with instructions for connecting to wi-fi, and checked that the keynote video had downloaded properly. We also doublechecked that the subtitles were working properly, though unfortunately we still had a snafu when actually displaying it, such that Gonzalo Frasca’s talk was only in Spanish, without subtitles. But we re-showed his talk *with* subtitles on Day 3, in the auditorium before all the demos, so I think that worked well. Michael Glickert and Katie Bryant helped with all kinds of stuff, working the registration table, handing out T-shirts, and touching up the slides for the opening ceremonies.
Dave Derington came by with a massive pile of power strips and extension cables, so we got to work distributing those to different tables and duct taping the cables down so they wouldn’t be trip hazards. And a video crew from UMSL showed up, so I coordinated with them to make sure they’d get the best shots, like reaction pictures of the audience when the theme was announced!
By 4 pm, most people had arrived, and then things started moving fast so I don’t remember exactly what happened when. Michael and Katie got the crowd warmed up, we showed the keynote, then I announced the theme, and everyone broke up into brainstorming groups for a half-hour to come up with game ideas. Then we all came back into the main room, and had a line of people come up on stage each giving a 1-minute pitch on their game idea, all of which were really interesting. Then, we went into team-forming, which looked incredibly chaotic as everyone started milling around to decide which game they wanted to work on. Some of the UMSL professors were looking on a bit wide-eyed at how crazy it all looked, but I was all confident it would settle into teams very quickly, and sure enough, within an hour or so, groups had formed, tables were being moved around into work areas, and folks were getting to work. Order out of Chaos!
We had to rearrange a few tables to make sure there were walkable paths through both rooms, but everything went well. Our original plan had been for the main room to be where most people would work, and then the overflow room would be for extra teams, and where we would serve food and whatnot. But as it turned out, we had many extra tables in the main room, so we set up a row as our “buffet line”, and I set up my own computer station in the back, and it worked great. I was in a good central location to watch the room, answer questions, and make sure we had enough supplies. And I finally had time to setup my own computer and log into Skype, which was my cyber-home for the duration of the jam. I and the other directors (all on multiple continents) were tracking the course of the jam that had already started in New Zealand several hours earlier, and were dealing with any other emergencies that arose. For example, a French site that filled up to capacity, but there were still many other jammers in the city that wanted to participate, so we arranged for one of them to declare his apartment as an overflow site, and they could work on their games that way. There was also a 15-year-old in Romania who really wanted to participate, but there were no sites in Romania, so I allowed him to setup a site from his home, and talked him through the details required. He had tried to get some of his friends involved, but they ended up flaking out, so it was just him. But he rose to the occasion, created his own GameMaker game, his own logo, and uploaded it all in the proper format, with license file on everything, and a blog describing the entire experience. I was proud of him, and told him he was doing a good job representing Romania! His ultimate goal is to get a job in the game industry, maybe at the Ubisoft office in Bucharest. With initiative and energy like he’s got, I hope he makes it!
For dinner on Friday, we brought in seven enormous Pointersaurus pizzas. I’d been assured that each one would feed 10-15 people, but our hardworking gamedevs descended on them like locusts, and everything was gone within a few minutes. I immediately got on the phone to order another five that night, and also to double the sandwich order for the next day!
UMSL’s policy was to lockup the building at midnight, which was unfortunate because I knew that some people wanted to work straight through the night. So we locked up, and then started again at 8 the next morning.