This weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in a local game jam held at the soon-to-be-open space, Looking For Group PGH. Even before walking into the space, I knew something special was brewing as a group of neighborhood kids huddled outside the space looking to get a glimpse of what was going on inside. As they saw me walk in to the space, one of them said “You are so lucky that you get to go in there!”. They were absolutely right.
The setup is a unique twist on a growing trend. Half of the space is a dedicated co-working area complete with a few tables, comfortable chairs, and other office amenities. However, what makes this place truly special is its dedicated gaming space. Each side of the gaming area is flanked with rows of gaming computers while the middle of the room hosts various flat screens hooked up to the latest console systems. Furthermore, newly arrived sofas and some slick-looking chairs are provided for furniture. It’s an incredible space. As we jammed throughout the weekend, you could see various people having a great time lounging on the sofas and playing Mario Maker on the flat screen.
Compared to the Global Game Jam, which I attended earlier this year, this game jam was much smaller (comprising about 10 or so people), but much more intimate. It was started casually when one of the Meetup PGH Game Makers members proposed the idea of a game jam. The owner of the space replied back offering up use of the space and just like that….it was on. It was a great group of guys from the Meetup PGH Game Makers group that were all on the same page about one thing, we just wanted to make a game. Being the only music/sound person in the room, I had the pleasure of actually being a part of both projects that were made that weekend.
The theme of the weekend was KISS…Keep It Simple Stupid which was a great theme considering that we had only 48hrs to produce a game. One project was a fighting game with a twist. Simple button presses delivered special moves. For example, pressing X on the controller delivered a laser eye beam (a la Cyclops). However, button mashing or doing complex combinations resulted in a simple punch or kick. The intent was to flip the fighting genre on its head as it rewarded the player for simplicity over complexity.
The other game was a space game where you had to maneuver through rings in outer space while avoiding objects and the pull of gravity from nearby planets. The star of this game was a stalker asteroid that would follow your ship if you got too close to it.
All in all, the event was fantastic and brought together people from a variety of disciplines. In the end, everyone got together to make the games happen. Even though the place was still be worked on, we were all more than comfortable in the space. Furthermore, situated within walking distance from the space were a few restaurants such as Las Palmas and Pita Land. Perhaps the most inspiring and unique part about the space is that it is much more dedicated to the culture of game development as opposed to just playing games. Talking with the owners, the plan is not only to offer a space for gaming, but to do classes on how to make games, setup LAN servers, and much more. You get the sense that this place is looking to be a real home to Pittsburgh’s development community and a breeding ground for the next generation of indie developers. Awesome.
For all Pittsburgh game devs, be sure to check out the PGH Game Makers group. And definitely check out Looking For Group PGH and support their Kickstarter campaign. I know this will become an icon in the Pittsburgh Dev scene, as well as becoming my second home! I’ve found my group!