Australian computer game designers have taken on the rest of the world in a 48-hour, non-stop contest to create new games.
The first ever Game Jam Sydney, co-organised by the University of New South Wales, is happening at the Powerhouse Museum from Friday, January 29 to Sunday, January 31, as part of the Global Game Jam (GGJ) - a competition in which hundreds of teams in more than 100 cities worldwide work around the clock to come up with new concepts in computer gaming.
UNSW computer scientist Dr Malcolm Ryan said eight teams of five designers will be taking part in Game Jam Sydney. The teams receive a theme on which to base their games at 5pm Friday and then work on-site at the Powerhouse till 5pm Sunday to produce an all-new game, sleeping in shifts in rest areas in the competition workshop.
"This will be a non-stop, hothouse environment. The idea is to have an intensive experience to promote innovation and brainstorming," Dr Ryan said.
"What we hope to see out of is a new kind of game that we haven't seen before. In all the game ideas produced, there could be one gem in there that might lead to something bigger."
Dr Ryan, a lecturer in computer game design and artificial intelligence at UNSW's School of Computer Science and Engineering, said interest in creating games is growing - numbers in his Computer Game Design course have tripled in the space of a year - and events such as Global Game Jam are an opportunity to boost Australia's computer game industry.
Internationally the computer gaming market is booming: the game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 broke the $US1bn international sales mark recently, a feat achieved only by blockbuster films such as Avatar; and the Australian computer games industry posted a record $2bn in sales last year, according to figures from the Interactive Gaming and Entertainment Association. Australia's games industry, however, has produced only a few internationally successful titles.
Game Jam Sydney co-organiser Dan Graf, from the Sydney branch of the International Game Designers' Association (IGDA), said the mass-market approach of major game publishing companies had made it hard for local game designers to get new ideas produced in the past. Independent Australian designers were now having more success with online distribution, he said, and the Game Jam would give a major boost to the profile and strength of the local industry.
Global Game Jam was held for the first time in 2009 and this year is the first time Sydney has participated.
Media students from UNSW's School of English, Media and Performing Arts will film interviews and video diaries with Game Jam participants to create mini-documentaries which will run during the event.
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