Guest Post: Andy Varshine ’12 UB, USG Staff, Global Game Jam Participant


Andy Varshine

Just like most of you, I grew up playing video games, and I haven’t stopped playing them yet! My busy schedule leaves me little time to play the latest Call of Duty; but when I finally get the chance to sit down and play a game, I still get that feeling of excitement and amazement.

When I was a student at Montgomery College, I learned about their game design program. I enrolled and I was immediately hooked on game development. After graduating, I decided to continue my education and enroll at the University of Baltimore (UB) at USG to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Simulation and Digital Entertainment (SDE). This program opened my eyes to the possibilities of creating video games as a career path.

While going to school I was offered a job at USG, where I currently work. I graduated from UB in 2012 and started working on my masters degree at UMUC. In my spare time, between work and school, I work on game development projects. One of my favorite events is the annual Global Game Jam. This is a 48-hour event in which a theme is presented and then teams are created to work together to develop a rapid prototype of a unique game experience. Although participants find little time to sleep and can become very grumpy, everyone has an amazing time.

GGJ Rite of PassageThe theme for this year was “Ritual.” Right after the theme was announced on Friday afternoon I found a team and we started letting our imaginations run wild. At this stage no idea is a bad one. From my past experience it’s usually the weirdest ideas that turn out to be the most captivating. Our team decided to interpret the theme of ritual to be an act that defines a specific moment in one’s life. Our game would go through a boy’s journey to becoming a man by gathering the tools he needs to trek to the far off mountain and slay the hungry mountain lion that resides on top. Only then would he be considered a man to the rest of his village.

Once all of our ideas were fleshed out, the work began. We all had our tasks and were ready to knock it out of the park. This stage of development is where the bulk of the work begins and doesn’t stop until Sunday morning (hence the lack of sleep and grumpiness).

GGJ Noah 1

Noah Edgar (age 5) playing some of the games created at the Global Game Jam

Early Sunday morning (I mean really early) we began testing and polishing our game. We made sure that the game is playable and enjoyable. Our team was really good with time management, so we had a lot of functionality completed and were able to add several improvements. As the 3:00PM deadline quickly approached, teams scrambled to get everything just right for their presentations and online submission. Eventually, time was up and all submissions needed to be in. A wave of relief came over our team as we sat and appreciated the other games that were made. It’s always amazing to see the talent that can come out of a very small weekend.

GGJ Team

Group of students who participated in the Global Game Jams 2016

In the end, our game Rite of Passage came in 2nd place, while 1st went to a very charming game named Chant Chant Boom. I am very proud of our team and what we were able to create. To me, the experience isn’t just about making a cool game. It’s more about meeting new people, trying something different, and having fun doing something that you’re passionate about. If you are looking for a creative outlet (be it art, writing, music, etc.), I would definitely recommend taking on the challenge that is the Global Game Jam Experience.

Click here and you can play all of the games that were made at the USG Global Game Jam!

GGJ round logo

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