Acclaimed video game developer will kick off next RVA Game Jam

A person behind some of the most most revered video games will appear later this month to kick off the latest RVA Game Jam event.

Update #2 — January 2nd, 2:00 PM

Later this month, RVA Game Jams (see bottommost article) will organize a 48-hour video game design event to bring local game developers together to each design a game in just two days. The free and public event coincides with the Global Game Jam, the largest video game design event in the world.

Kicking off the event will be a Q&A discussion with respected game developer Kellee Santiago. In addition to being a TED Fellow and a contributor to the Smithsonian Institute, Santiago, who attended a high school in the region, is the co-founder and former president of thatgamecompany. The company designed Journey, the first video game with a score nominated for a Grammy Award, and FlOw, one of the select games acquired for a collection at The Museum of Modern Art.

The Global Game Jam will run January 25th – 27th at 804RVA, located at 1657 W. Broad Street. Here’s the schedule of the 48-hour event. Those interested in participating should register in advance.

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Update #1 — November 30th, 10:30 AM

Organizers of RVA Game Jams will host their second Ludum Dare Game Jam, this one at the 804RVA work space. The event will run from December 14th – 16th. The event coincides with Ludum Dare, the semi-annual game development competition held across the globe.

The upcoming 72-hour marathon game development event aims to attract novice and professional game developers alike. RVA Game Jams first held a Ludum Dare meet-up, a 48-hour one, back in August (see post below).

A release about the upcoming event discusses what the organizers hope to accomplish in Richmond:

RVA Game Jams is a community project created to get game developers from the Richmond area together to participate in game jams, learn more about developing games, and network with each other. We are interested in exploring games as a form of art, communication and entertainment. We are keen to support the creative/tech savvy community in the Richmond area within the world of indie game development.

For more information, or to RSVP to the event, visit RVA Game Jams.

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Original — August 22, 2012

Ever wanted to design your own video game? This weekend is the time to do it. Beginning Friday, August 24th, the Ludum Dare Game Jam will focus game designers of all skill levels for 48 hours to create the game they’ve long put off. Local organizers want to bring RVA game designers together to take part in the global initiative by hosting a meetup in conjunction with the event. They’ve also created a website to foster RVA’s game design community called RVA Game Jams

“I thought it would be cool to have a meet-up to promote a community,” said Will Blanton, one of the organizers of the local meet up and RVA Gams Jams. “Try to bring everyone out of the shadows and get acquainted.”

For years, Blanton, a graphic designer, wanted to apply his talents to video games. “It’s always been something I wanted to do.” After completing two years at VCU, he went on to a local ITT campus, which had the only video game design program in the region.1

Lauren Vincelli, a close friend of Blanton, has seen the work that he has done firsthand. She in turn values games and the work that goes into their design. “I have come to see it as a fascinating way to communicate with people and entertain people.”

About two years ago, Blanton participated in a Ludum Dare Game Jam, which began in 2002 and is held several times each year. While the event motivated him to finally take on his first game, his surroundings weren’t exactly inspiring. “I was in a room by myself,” he said. He said he would have rather had the ability to talk with other designers and see what they were doing, as a way to encourage his own progress.

In December, conversations with Vincelli and others led Blanton to believe that there was a small game design community already in Richmond, or at least people trying to start a community. “At first glance, you’d think we don’t have one.” But the more he and friends asked around, the more he found others were just as interested in game design as he was. “Richmond has a lot of other art scenes,” said Blanton. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have a game development scene.” Vincelli agrees: “It’s really time for Richmond to pay attention to mediums like this.”

Vincelli, who works at Citizen in the city’s financial district, spoke to the owner, Greg Johnson, about using the space for a meet up during this weekend’s Ludum Dare event. Fascinated by the idea, he agreed. As a result, the restaurant will keep its doors open for a full 48 hours beginning at 8:00 PM on August 24th. Blanton said he expects 20-24 people will participate throughout the event’s duration.

“It’s not super white-knuckle,” said Blanton about the 48-hour commitment; people can come and go as they please. He said the purpose of the event is be fun, but also motivating. “A competition like this forces you to rein it in.”

Blanton said that in the past many have designed Flash and other web-based games. That’s changing. “There are a decent [amount] of entrees for smartphones and tablets.” He said sometimes games can emerge as polished entities at the end of a Ludum Dare event, or as foundations for a larger project. “It depends on the scope of the designers.”2 He said that abilities aren’t as important as determination. “Motivation is a lot more important than skills. If you just have the motivation, you should be totally fine.” In addition to giving individual designers focus to create their work, He and Vincelli want to foster a local game design community.

“We’re sort of hoping we can create a pool of people interested in similar or different aspects” of game design said Vincelli. For example, she said that ideally a programmer may get in contact with someone interested in scoring video games, or an illustrator may meet and partner with a programmer. The goal is to “create a community that can help each other out,” she said. “One day, we would like to host our own Richmond-based game competition.”

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The RVA meetup for this year’s Ludum Dare event will take place Friday, August 24th at 8:00 PM – Sunday, August 26th at 8:00 PM at Citizen, located at 909 E. Main Street. Play N Trade is sponsoring an unveiling of the work created this weekend on Sunday, August 26th at 9:00 PM at Citizen. Free pizza will be provided, and the public is encouraged to attend.

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  1. The program was eliminated sometime after Blanton enrolled. 
  2. Here are the entries from the April 20th – 23rd, 2012 Ludum Dare Game Jam 
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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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