Software Engineering Team from Fairfield Wins “Best in Show” at Global Game Jam 2019

Software Engineering Team from Fairfield Wins “Best in Show” at Global Game Jam 2019

grad students at game jam

Fairfield grad students look on as a judge tests out their video game at Global Game Jam 2019.

World records were broken as six Fairfield University graduate students in the software engineering program spent an entire weekend collaborating on the design and development of a new video game at the largest Game Jam ever.

With a goal of bringing people from all over the world together for one exciting weekend of creating innovative video games, Global Game Jam is described by its volunteer organizers as “a hackathon focused on game development.” This year’s non-profit event took place from January 25 to 27 and broke all previous participation records with 47,000 “jammers” making 9,000 new games at 860 sites in 113 countries.

Now in its 11th year, ten new countries took part for the first time in Global Game Jam 2019, including Azerbaijan, Namibia, and Sri Lanka. But the team of grad students representing Fairfield University participated at a location closer to home — Stamford, Connecticut. Far-flung participants stayed connected as they worked, through 50 hours of livestreaming on Mixer and a very active Twitter feed.

At the start of the weekend, Game Jam organizers strategically announced this year’s secret theme across virtually every time zone in the world: “What Home Means to You.” And then the fun began; inspired by a shared love for survival-style games, the software engineers from Fairfield feverishly took to their keyboards and created a game with a story based on a map design.  Grad student John Crowley said, “This was my first competition like this, and my favorite part was working with friends to build a fun game that everyone could play.”

"The event was very high energy," added teammate and fellow grad student Samuel Nguyen, a self-taught video game developer with experience in 3D graphics. "I did meet a lot of new people. It was not all game developers, as people might think. There were musicians, artists, writers, and designers among many others."

Both Crowley and Nguyen agreed that the hardest part of building the game was the time constraint.  Describing the hectic pace of the sleep deprived weekend, Crowley noted, “It was early morning starts all the way through until 9 p.m.  Lots of asset designing and even more logic programming.”

At the end of the competition on Sunday afternoon, a half dozen judges with expertise in game development and design individually tested out each game created at the Stamford location. Said Nguyen, "As far as I know, the games were judged on art, game-play, story, and use of technology." Crowley shared that he and his team were proud to have gotten the job done by the deadline; many teams were unable to complete the task in the allotted time frame.

Being judged “Best in Show” did not come as a complete surprise to Nguyen, thanks to the Fairfield team's use of complex 3D graphics for their characters, assets, and animation, which he shared, "the judges said was very rare since it is difficult to develop."

"On top of that, even before the judging, many observers came by and asked us how long we have been doing this and what courses we took," continued Nguyen. "They were very surprised to find out that we had never taken any specific game design courses."

In addition to Crowley and Nguyen, the Fairfield University team included classmates Jingfei Zhang, Rajashekar Reddy Nandyala, Mohanapriya Nithiyanantha Sukumar, and Michael Donofrio. Adrian Rusu, PhD,  professor and chair of Computer Science and Engineering said that all students in the software engineering graduate program participate in some type of competition during their studies "as part of the unique out-of-classroom preparation and experience we provide to our students."

This group chose the global gaming competition because of their strong interest in the subject matter. For any hobbyists, designers, coders, or students inspired to join next year’s Global Game Jam, Crowley advised, “All you gotta do is show up!  If you want to compete, go to the Game Jam website, find the next game jam, sign up, and go!  Their website is: Enjoy!

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