NEW YORK, N.Y. – January 20 — From novices to pros, computer game designers, developers and artists from throughout the Northeastern United States will converge at Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 W. 120th Street, New York City, to participate in the first-ever simultaneous Global Game Jam, a worldwide, timed competition in video game design.
Teachers College will serve as a New York host from 5 p.m. Friday, January 30 to 5 p.m. Sunday, February 1, for the international competition, which will take place in 52 locations, across 22 countries and 14 time zones over the same 48 hours.
Up to 100 contestants with varying levels of skill and experience will break into teams of two to four. They will work nonstop for 48 hours (there will be one room reserved for sleeping and one for eating for those who need a break, said organizer Alex Jones) to design new games from scratch, without pre-designed scripts or outside help.
So far, gamers from MTV Networks, Sesame Street Workshop, Stratolab, Okiron Music, the International Game Developers Association, Game Loft, New York City media designers, educators, and students from Columbia and Cornell universities, as well as Teachers College, have signed up to participate.
“It’s going to be an extremely interesting mix of people,” said organizer Amy O’Neal, a student in the instructional technology and media program at TC.
A panel of professional judges will chose a winning game that will be presented at a future conference sponsored by the International Game Developers Association, the organizer of Global Game Jam.
The Game Jam will give game designers a chance to brainstorm and share ideas for all kinds of games, educational or not, and to raise awareness of the work Teachers College is doing on games.
Jones, a TC master’s student in instructional technology and media, hopes to use the weekend to network with expert gamers and game designers. Most people think students come to Teachers College “to learn how to teach. But gaming in general, especially in education, is the up-and-coming thing.”
Teachers College has a growing presence in the gaming world. As video games have grown popular, educators and researchers worldwide have become interested in discovering what happens in the brain when children and adults use them, and how they might be used to teach.
TC has a Communication, Computing and Technology in Education program and a Games Research Lab, where professors and students study how playing and games of all types—including computer games—affect learning. Professors and students at the lab explore such topics as human cognition, collaboration, media effects, modern culture, creativity, improvisation and other elements of games that have implications for education.
“Designers of successful educational games need to understand the language of game design—just as one has to learn to write before trying to compose a sonnet,” said Jessica Hammer, a doctoral student in Cognitive Studies in Education in TC’s Human Development Department, who also teaches game design. “TC understands this; the College has done an excellent job of rooting work on educational games in the best practices of the larger game design field, as well as in educational theory.”
TC’s involvement in Game Jam was spearheaded by Charles Kinzer, professor of education and coordinator of the program in Communication, Computing and Technology in Education (CCTE), which is an integral part of Games For Learning Institute. Launched earlier this year and based at New York University, the Institute will conduct research leading to design principles for educational games that can enhance learning in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
Early registrations the Game Jam are being taken through January 23. For more information, go to http://www.tc.columbia.edu/ggj2009/