The four games created by students at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, last week were inspired by the sound of a heartbeat – the assigned theme for this year’s Global Game Jam, an annual hacker marathon – and by a ticking clock: The teams had just 48 hours to create, code and upload their games, which anyone can now play.
The time limit kept the games simple. “When you know you only have two days, you think small,” said Matthew White, lecturer in game development. “You don’t dream up a space opera.”
Instead, you get “Blood Lock,” a maze game played in an animated blood stream. The player controls a virus, which pushes forward on spindly squid legs, aiming for the host’s heart, which George Gotsiridze, a freshman from New York City, drew at 4 a.m.
“I haven’t slept,” Gotsiridze said, his elbows on a desktop littered with Chex Mix, Diet Pepsi cans and a Listerine bottle. “It’s working, though. The mechanics of it are really coming together.”
Matt Campbell, a junior from Edinboro, felt a bit fresher. He’d slept for a few hours in a conference room in the Jack Burke Research and Economic Development Center.
He tested the game, mouse-clicking the virus toward Gotsiridze’s heart. As he turned a corner and started upstream, he had to click faster; the game’s design simulated a current, which kept pushing the virus back.
It was 4 p.m. Saturday.
“I’m loving this,” Campbell said. “And we still have a whole day to polish it.”
In another room, a different team built a maze game played on a black screen, with no graphics. Players move through it guided only by the sound of a heartbeat, which increases as the exit gets closer.
The market for a game like that is minimal. But that isn’t really the point.
“This isn’t a competition,” White said. “It’s a community-building exercise.”
To that end, it worked. More than 12,000 gamers in 63 countries participated in this year’s Global Game Jam. They created more than 3,000 heartbeat-themed games and posted them, free, for anyone to test.
To download and play the Penn State Behrend games, click here.
For the full catalog of Global Game Jam entries, click here.