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After WW2 in the 1940s, jazz musicians started jamming together in the clubs. The purpose of the jam was to play with someone other than usual people, to show off your skills and creativity with your instrument, and to get respect from your peers and the audience.
In early February, 134 game developers came together at the IT-University in Copenhagen for the Nordic Game Jam '08. Their purpose: to work with other people than the usual, to show off their skills and creativity and to get respect for making the coolest game in 49 hours. The participants were a diverse mix of professionals, amateurs, students, and curious people and when the dust settled Sunday, 19 new games saw the light.
Nordic Game Jam '08 was the third annual game jam in Copenhagen. The event is non-profit, and organized by the Danish chapter of International Game Developer's Association, Diginet.org and the Center for Games Research at the IT-University.
IGDA is focused on improving developers' lives through community, Diginet.org focuses on connecting the creative industries in the Copenhagen-Malmö area and the IT-University is focused on educating game developers and world class game research.
The combination of these three partners -- IGDA for network & technical knowhow, Diginet.org for organizational skills and ITU for facilities and IT-resources -- has helped facilitate the Game Jam with great success. Participants came from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, the U.S., Switzerland, Spain and the U.K. With 134 participants, the Game Jam included around 10% of the Danish developer community.
The first Game Jam in 2006 had 40 participants and it has grown ever since. The purpose of the convention is to give people a creative space for game experiments and connect game developers with each other -- they come to do something they can't do in their daily job, and with a different team.
The Game Jam kicked off on Friday afternoon with a series of tech talks and art talks, to set the frame for the event and introduce some of the technologies that were available for development at the event.
The participants were free to use whatever technology they saw fit for their game, but the IT-University had a series of game editors pre-installed in their hardware for classes -- among these CryEd, Valve's Hammer and even GameMaker.
As an extra service, a couple of companies had volunteered for the tech talks to present their development tools and make them available for the participants.
CEO David Helgason from Unity Technologies presented the Unity Editor, which was used during the jam to make a Wii game. Morten Pedersen from Microsoft presented the Microsoft XNA development kit and as a very special bonus Chris Hager & Jesper Taxbøl presented the "One Laptop Per Child" computer as a development platform.
In the arts talks, Katherine Isbister (formerly of Stanford University, now at the IT-University) talked about development and character design, lead sound programmer Torsten Kjær Sørensen from IO Interactive talked about adaptive sound design for Kane & Lynch, and as an inspirational talk, cognitive researcher Andreas Lieberoth talked about taboo themes from a sociological and cognitive perspective.
As the keynote for the talks, Jonathan Blow (known from the Experimental Gameplay Workshop at Game Developers Conference) gave a talk on how to develop high-quality games as an indie developer or a student.