Rather than spending Saturday celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at an outdoor party or neighborhood bar, a few dozen students spent 42 hours in the Duderstadt Center on North Campus. Their goal: program video games from scratch.

Wolverine Soft, a video game development club at the University, hosted Shammy Jam this weekend, in which 31 students split into teams to create video games and compete for prizes. The event began Friday night and concluded at noon Sunday.

The organization hosts four “Game Jams” — essentially video game hackathons — each year, with between 20 to 60 participants.

Engineering lecturer Jeremy Gibson, Wolverine Soft’s faculty adviser, said he believes the time constraint encourages teams to think outside of the box.

“There’s a lot of research that shows that some boundaries really help creativity,” Gibson said. “There’s the whole blank white page issue that everybody has, so having some type of restrictions helps give you a space to start thinking from.”

Ultimately, the games were judged and awarded prizes based on mechanics, aesthetics and their adherence to the event’s theme, which this year focused on “change.”

A game called Pacific Plunder earned first place in the competition. The product was created by “Team 0,” which was comprised of University alums Stephen Dougherty, Rena Steed, David Ross and Engineering senior Austin Yarger.

The game centers upon a boat crew, whose mission is to collect as many coins as possible while traveling the seas despite being slowly approached by a massive whale that will ultimately sink the ship.

As a reward, the team members got first pick from a selection of video game prizes, as well as T-shirts and other smaller awards.

Steed, who attended Game Jams as an undergraduate, said the Shammy Jam provided another rewarding experience.

“It’s really fun, because you get to interact with something with a visual medium to it. (The organizers) Facebook messaged me and asked me if I wanted to come out this weekend and be on a team and because I’ve done this before, I know how much fun it can be.”

Though not all teams earned official rankings, many were given “Golden Awards” for specific achievements. These included Best Music, Best Art, Most Unlucky Team and Best Use of Jam Name, among others.

Engineering sophomore Ben Cooper was on the team that received the Best Base award, meaning that their game had the most potential for further development.

Cooper’s group interpreted the “change” theme quite literally, creating a game called Bus Fare, with the objective being for a robber to attack people and collect change so he could ride the bus.

Cooper said his experience in Shammy Jam was a positive one.

“This is how I finally got started actually going from thinking about making games to actually making games,” he said. “It’s been a fantastic educational experience.”

Engineering sophomore Emma Fink was a part of a team who created a multi-platform game, Heart of Stone, in which users climb a giant monster. Fink said programming was only a fraction of the effort required to create a successful game.

“Your game has to have good mechanics, and it has to work, but it also has to look nice or else people won’t be attracted to it,” she said. “People are automatically going to be attracted to things that look nice and sound cool.”

Fink believes these events tend to attract a lot of programmers, but Engineering junior Matthew Stone, a junior officer for Wolverine Soft, said the organization is trying to expand the diversity of its participants.

“We get a lot of Computer Science majors, but we also get artists and musicians,” Stone said. “We’re trying to grow that a lot more.”

Gibson said he also believes that the Game Jams would benefit from more artists and musicians participating.

“In all my experience, both professionally and academically, game development really, really thrives when you have a multidisciplinary group,” Gibson said.

In addition to arts and music students, Stone said Shammy Jam and other Game Jams are open to anyone at the University who chooses to participate. The incentive of the club is to teach people how to create games.

“People come here to learn how to do it,” Stone said. “We try to teach people when we have meetings, so that they can use it during these events.”

Aside from the many prizes, many participants said the real takeaway was the experience they gained from the Game Jam.

“Their game doesn’t usually turn out to be exactly what they wanted, because how it can it possibly be in the short amount of time that we have?” Gibson said. “Even so, they are seeing their skills develop, and they’re seeing that they’re getting better at actually making games.”

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