Looking for something new to do this weekend? Then Game With Us, a gaming event being put on by the computer science department at the University of Saskatchewan, might be right up your alley.
Organized by master’s students Mike Sheinin and Rod Vicencio, Game With Us is an event where people with no prior experience in coding or game design can come in and participate in sessions that teach them all the basic skills to create their own game. Participants then get into groups and have 48 hours to create their own game.
“It doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s not going to be a crazy game,” Sheinin said. “But the goal is to get into your teams and work on it from Saturday morning to Sunday night and for people to learn and practice — to create something.”
For people that are already overwhelmed at the thought of this, don’t be alarmed! There will be lots of help — for novices and people with more experience — along the way. The evening of Sept. 26 will be full of helpful sessions about programming basics for the completely uninitiated as well as more intermediate sessions for people with a more solid background in coding.
“We’ll have volunteers helping out teams with problems or anything they can’t fix along the way,” Sheinin added reassuringly.
Sheinin and Vicencio came up with the idea of hosting a game jam at the U of S after attending one themselves over the summer in Waterloo, On. Being graduate students at the Human Computer Interactions lab here on campus, there were in the perfect position to organize such an event.
“We’re a pretty popular lab around the country so it just seemed right for us to host one,” Sheinin said. “We have a lot of enthusiastic students and we felt like it would be a really good event that hasn’t been done here before.”
When thinking of video games, the idea is often that large publishers such as EA and Activision are the only gaming houses that can produce good games and triple A titles such as Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, or even non-sequel titles like The Last of Us. However, the gaming industry lately has seen a rise in more indie developers producing quirky and unique games that are simple and fun to play. Now it seems you don’t need a multi-million dollar budget to make a great game — all you need is some time, creativity and the patience to upload it onto Steam, Google Play or the App Store.
“Most people don’t think of video games as something that they can do on their own, so it’s pretty cool to have people come to that realization and pick it up as a hobby,” Sheinin said. “People just starting out can focus on little 2D games, drawing little sprites and using circles and squares,” Sheinin added.
It’s not just code monkeys and video game fanatics that come to game jams. Artists participate in them in order to use their creative skills in a new form of media that can immerse people into their work.
“We’re trying to advertise to artists as well,” Sheinin said. “I don’t know any artists that see it as an option, so I hope to see people of different backgrounds meet up.”
Sheinin also sees Game With Us as an opportunity for current and prospective students at the U of S to see what the department of computer science is all about and maybe foster an interest in them.
“I help out in Digitized, an outreach program that gathers interested high school students from all over Saskatchewan and teach them about making things in Photoshop and learning about robotics,” Sheinin said.
Sheinin is hoping to give participants an idea of what exactly coding is through the game jam. By giving participants the basic knowledge to create their own programs, he is hoping that it demystifies the process for people enough to let them realise that it isn’t exactly rocket science.
“All of computer science has a bunch of different languages, but the concepts are the same. Once you learn it well in one language, then you can learn another language pretty quickly.”
The three main engines that the Game With Us event will be focusing on for creating is Processing — a game making tool for more of the beginner participants, Unity and Unreal 4. Sheinin assures that the engines simplify the coding process into more of a button press, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be learning any less.
“We’re hoping to instill knowledge into people, to let them know they can do this. We also want to have a fun event where people who love games can meet up and play each other’s games,” Sheinin said.
Game With Us is happening on Sept. 26–28 on the 3rd floor of Spinks Addition. Tickets are $20 online or $25 at the door. To find out more information and purchase tickets, visit gamewithus.ca