Global Games Jam 2016

Fiona French Senior Lecturer at London Metropolitan University invited me to her Games Jam last weekend at the Accelerator in Shoreditch. I did no prior research on what Games Jam might be but signed up as Fiona and I have been friends for a long time (having done our masters degree together), her annual graduation exhibition is always fascinating and we hadn’t hung out in ages.

It turns out that Games Jam is a day or weekend hackathon of game developers who plan, design, and create either a digital or board game. Global Games Jam is an annual well sponsored event with slick videos and easy to use website. This year the theme was Ritual and after deciding not to go for a religious theme with opted to focus on clown’s and their rituals.

I was worried that we would be coding all day and night, drinking and eating junk and I would have to dust down some recursive case statements that I hadn’t used for years. All these things happened. In addition I found myself in a room where I had lots of connections to the participants, met new talented people, learnt enough Unity to move a non-player character (NPC) on screen, debugged some painful mesh problems in Maya, was caught on my first stream and played games with Fiona’s kids (who also game tested London 2012 mascots site for me). And I was allowed to go home and sleep each night even if no one else did.

The ability to not need sleep created a fun little game called A Clowny Day.

Tools like Unity are amazing but so complicated the kudos has to go to the programmers and artists. A lot of fun worth checking out next year.

HTML 5 and CSS3 Tic Tac Toe

My Head of Creative Technology was visiting our Delhi team from Singapore last week and upon touching back down at Regional HQ set us the Challenge of creating a Tic Tac Toe game with nothing but HTML 5 and CSS3

So naturally I googled and got this


In the second post Rodrigo had decided to see how fast he can code a tic-tac-toe game. Crazy but it spurred me on. Its close to 43 degrees in Delhi and rising so while I am trapped in air-conditioning lets go…

I barely remember how to create a new file on my Mac with a html extension and then remembered the TextEdit can do that and very proudly I drop a file next to my Xamp folder which weirdly is the entire contents of my document drive at home. I start working my way through FromTheSprawl post and hit my first new thing. Its a nifty tag creating dynamic pallets using JavaScript. Immediately I think I am on the wrong lines but I double check the challenge, Javascript isn’t out.

But the tutorial is still going to fast for me. So lets break it down. I have single box canvas and when I hit on it I want it to do something. Anything.

function canvasClicked(canvasNumber){alert("hello world!"); }

Ok so now lets display something in the Canvas. Putting X ontop. Wait in the post the guys are drawing their X, W3C has an example that displays words.
So combining the two we get.

function canvasClicked(canvasNumber){ var c = document.getElementById("canvas1"); var ctx = c.getContext("2d"); ctx.font = "30px Arial"; ctx.fillText("X",10,50); alert("hello world!"); }
// ]]


So I got a call and went out eat sushi, soaked in the swimming pool. I came back and added all the squares for the game. Just in case you thought life in Delhi was dull.

Kavita Kapoor’s amazing Tic Tac Toe game

Anyway taking out the alert box seems to break the whole thing but I shall ignore this and move onto creating the game logic. When I finally come back to this I am not sure if the computer is going to play or two humans. For now, it was straight forward task to create a variable which tracked if it was X or O turn.

At that point I played my game against myself repeatedly till bedtime and slept happy.

Cory Arcangel Beat the Champ installation at the Barbican

Spent an evening considering @cory_arcangel Beat the Champ installation at the Barbican with @SmileyBen, @rossf7, Jon and Ira.

Late 1990's The first thing I noticed was the space. I had suggested that we meet at the entrance and found that space ran arched around the back of  the orchestra pit. As there were two potential rendezvous point my first experience of the show was racing through the elongated round. I felt like the protagonist of a 1980’s cyber film set inside a game.

14 massive projected video games screens and their associated noise kept me company. I really wanted to grab a board and skate through the space with the show on. According to Arcangel’s websiteBarbican install was made especially for their crazy big space” so sadly this was one you had to experience in person. Each screen showed a bowling game where the bowler threw a gutter ball each time. We worked backwards starting from games made in 2000’s. By the time we hit games made in the 1990’s the thing that was most striking for me was the varied emotions of the characters on the screen. As we weren’t the player and knew the outcome, it was easy to simply compare screens. The onscreen bowlers were angry, frustrated and sometimes distraught by their awful bowling. One constantly dropped the ball on his foot and was in massive amounts of pain.

There were a relief to hitting the games made in the 1970’s. The emotions had gone and that simplicity of game play was highly watchable. Like extreme sports the quick repetitive nature of these basic games brought through that feeling of the being in zone trance even though we weren’t controlling the games.

Once nudged out of my trance it was the bell shaped arch of realism of the games that struck me. Somewhere in the late 90’s the games were closest to a realistic bowling experience. The pins were reset after each attempt. Other lanes were occupied. The on screen bowler was truly distraught. Early games couldn’t do this. More recent games didn’t bother.

For me the most fascinating thing I wanted to take away and learn was how the games were controlled.  Arcangel  describes his games as “hacked”. It would be an easy task to film the game as it is played. However Arcangel chose a more complicated approach.  Each game was controlled by a chip.

The show moves to NYC is late May and it is worth checking out.