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Cramming & Jamming: GAIM Students Build Video Games in a Weekend


If the bouncing Q-tip had heels, the humongous-eared monster would be hot on them.

“He just hates his job, man,” said Micah Betts ’07, who did the 3-D animation for “Q-Tip Nightmare,” a game where a disgruntled Q-tip tries to flee his waxy fate.


Laughter broke out among a group of bleary-eyed but proud UMBC students, alumni and video game enthusiasts, who had just brainstormed and built several short video games as part of the Global Game Jam, a worldwide, weekend-long sprint of creativity held Friday, January 30 through Sunday, February 1.

The jam was also a labor of love by the two faculty members behind UMBC’s Games, Animation and Interactive Media (GAIM) ProgramNeal McDonald from visual arts and Marc Olano of computer science, who guided five teams made up of 15 UMBC students and eight guest participants throughout the process.

“It was 48 hours of frantic activity,” said Olano. “It was exciting to be part of something that involved 53 sites in over 20 countries, with more than 1600 participants creating over 300 games.”

The idea of the jam is to get students interested in gaming careers to learn by doing – serious programming and animation/digital art skills are required even to build a simple game – and have fun doing it.

The GAIM Program brings together teams of students with arts and computer science backgrounds to team up and compete on game designs by the end of their senior year. The end result is a skill set that can lead to a gaming career or have applications in aerospace, architecture, healthcare and many other fields. feathertether.png

“It’s good energy, lots of laughing, but more importantly, learning to do things just like they’re done in the industry,” said McDonald, who teaches several courses on the visual arts side of the program, including Art 380, which covers the history and theory of games from ancient Egypt to modern video games.

The games were required to be less than five minutes long, and somehow express the statement, "as long as we have each other, we will always have problems", as well as one of the adjectives "illusionary", "pointed,” or "persistent.”

“Feather Tether,” a game where two birds tied together try to eat the most bugs and reach outer space, claimed the bulk of the peer-voted awards from the UMBC site, winning best art, best technical contribution, best gameplay, and best expression of the constraints.

To learn more about and play the games produced at UMBC’s Global Game Jam site and across the world, visit http://globalgamejam.org/category/baltimore-md-usa.

Read Catonsville Times coverage of the Global Game Jam here.

Watch video from the Global Game Jam at UMBC below. (Turn speaker volume up for best sound quality)

Posted: February 6, 2009, 12:00 PM