Five terrific games from Global Game Jam 2013
Each year, thousands of people from across the world gather to quickly make games and consume tragic amounts of caffeine. Welcome to the Global Game Jam, ladies and gentlemen. In case you've never heard of this extraordinary annual event, GGJ is a two-day sprint held in hundreds of locations around the world that calls upon its participants to make a game, any game, within that mind-bogglingly limited time frame.
This year, there were more than 16,000 registered "jammers" in 320 jam sites, GGJ co-director Zuraida Buter tells me over IM, shooting me a link to the GGJ live status page. "We still need to do a proper count as there were a couple of hiccups with the server and also weed out duplicate games, streamline the participants listing and so forth," she clarifies. "There are roughly 3,000 games right now."
It's impossible to do a comprehensive recap of the world's interactive output over this weekend, but relying on the recommendations of others alongside my own testing, I've assembled a handful of recommendations. It's humbling to see the sheer amount of work that has been poured into these titles and to consider the hard work of the event's organizers.
Short of stepping up to the plate as a volunteer or joining the committee, the Global Game Jam Simulator is probably the next best way to experience the hectic, behind-the-scenes action for yourself. A deliriously awesome, text-based simulator with excellent music from Alec Holowka, Global Game Jam Simulator will have you attempting to organize a successful game jam in 10 months' time. Spoiler: It isn't easy. There are volunteers, coffee, advertisements, swag, social acumen and more to balance and work on in a short time time span. Now, go play it and then send a cookie to the organizers.
Phil Savage may not be a terribly good surgeon, but he's got a great eye for games. A hysterical hybrid of QWOP and Operation, Bossa Studios' Surgeon Simulator 2013 puts you in the shoes of an unassuming gent named Nigel Burke. His mission in life? To perform a heart transplant without any medical knowledge. What can possibly go wrong? Surgeon Simulator 2013 is as bloody, cringe-inducing, and inherently funny hilarious as you could imagine.
Another surgery sim? Thank you, Game Jame Gods. If the idea of playing an inept, actual doctor does not appeal to you, here's something of a similar, darker vein. Legitimate Business Simulator 2013 has been described by its creators as a "100% MEDICALLY ACCURATE surgical simulation" which is, really, a rather nice way of explaining that you'll be a ruthless organ harvester. Here, you'll learn about things like the intricacies of the human anatomy, the value of super glue and why it's more cost-effective to remove all the necessary organs before your unwitting donor wakes up. Amusement and black humor abound. You can thank Aaron Dron, Daan Nijs, Andy Durdin and Hazel McKendrick for this one.
Twine is rapidly becoming one of the more popular tools for indie game development, so it's no surprise to see a Twine game be one of the stand-outs this year. Damian Sommer's The Vermin Throne is an intriguing novelty. Multiplayer experimental interactive fiction? Wow. The premise is entirely familiar: your father is dead and you must either shame or slaughter your siblings in a bid to become the sovereign ruler. To do so, you will have to, inevitably, improve your vital statistics and engage in battles of wit and wickedness.
What better way to spend a few minutes than being strapped to a pixelated polygraph? Set against a noir backdrop, The Polygraph is a game about accuracy and maintaining composure, which asks you to manage the fluctuations of your tremulous heart as faceless figures probe you for the truth. The Polygraph is a simple yet elegant interpretation of the theme, one further enhanced by the moody musical accompaniment, the detective vibe and surprisingly good writing. Chloi Rad, James Farmer and Peter Hunter are responsible for this fine piece of work.
Last but not least, an honorable mention goes to Shaolin Heart Puncher's wonderful trailer.