In this virtual discussion, we invited the executive director of Global Game Jam and members of her network for a radiography of the industry, all over the world and a discussion on their projects and how to translate know-how and practice, across borders and cultures.
The Global Game Jam (GGJ) is the world's largest game creation event taking place around the globe, typically at physical locations. A "game jam" is essentially a hackathon focused on game development. It is the growth of an idea that in today’s heavily connected world, we could come together, be creative, share experiences and express ourselves in a multitude of ways using video games.
Key points by Ioanna Georgia Eskiadi
Video games and their intersectionality has increased over the last few years. The game industry has enhanced its impact, especially on social issues. One prominent example of the flourishing gaming industry is Global Game Jam, the world's largest game creation event with hubs across the globe. A "game jam" is essentially a hackathon focused on game development. It is the product of an idea that in today’s heavily connected world, we can come together, be creative, share experiences, and express ourselves in a multitude of ways using video games.
The mission of Global Game Jam is to empower individuals worldwide to learn, experiment, and create together through the medium of games. The basic ethos is not based in competition, this is very important to the organization’s core values. It is about the experience of collaboration, experimentation, and education. It is rooted in creating communities which is why, until 2021, it has been conducted through an in-person jam. The key aspects of the events are keynote videos, keynote speakers who try to inspire young people in the game industry, and a keynote presentation by a well-known industry figure. There are Partner Jams which are sponsored game jams around specific themes and/or technologies throughout the year. 2020 held the largest game creation event with record-breaking numbers worldwide. Every year, a theme is attached to the event, and the team creates diversified design challenges to enhance that theme. The organization aims to work across many cultures and languages so people can more easily understand the intended theme. The next big event is in late July- early August, and it is dedicated to young creators. It consists of two parts, one week of curriculum and learning, and one week to apply one’s skills.
“Every year we strive to add new countries and regions to our growth. We still have ways to go reach total global coverage”.
Game development is an inspiring experience and has begun to integrate in many organizations. For example, the US State Department now applies programs that include video games. As the world of diplomacy is about convening people together, the best diplomats are able to discuss the issues that they care about, create ideas together, and work together internationally through game development. In 2019, the State Department explored video gamers with a big impact online and tried to engage their audiences and expand their networks. If the aim is to connect with each other, then gamers are a crucial piece of the puzzle. Video games are a rewarding aspect too; they bridge a cultural and international gap to build understanding. Games are part of a greater interactive media strategy. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs claims that every program has to align with policy, in terms of the US State Department. To maintain it’s competitive advantages, the US will prioritize emerging technologies critical to economic growth and security. Video games are an essential part of the technology of the future. Further, video games have been a mechanism for girls to be actively involved in gaming and piques their interest in STEM careers. The agency of public diplomacy of the US State Department has said that with video games, we can understand who the audience is to ensure the continued US leadership in attracting foreign audiences to western video game technology and counter the increasing reach of Chinese and Russian companies in controlling the content and platforms catering to the 2.7 billion video game audience members.
“We find ways to integrate the video games in our work to expand our audience. Video games are a medium where we can bring the cultural understanding and build career skills”.
Watch the discussion:
Kate Edwards is well- known for her culturalization work in the video game industry, and her award-winning industry advocacy efforts - including her current role as Executive Director of the Global Game Jam and former role as Executive Director of the International Game Developers Association. During her time at Microsoft and since, she's worked on many game franchises, including Halo, Fable, Age of Empires, Dragon Age, Modern Warfare, Mass Effect and many others. With broad experience in the fields of geography, cartography, geopolitics and cross-cultural issues, Kate Edwards is a recognized thought leader in applying this knowledge to 'real world' business solutions and problem solving.
Joshua Shen is currently the Strategic Designer for Interactive Media and Games for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). His portfolio is to explore ways to integrate gaming, gamification, and new communication technologies with existing State Department policy needs, key audiences, and programs. He serves as ECA’s liaison in this space with other U.S. government agencies, the private sector, and academia. Prior to this assignment, Joshua worked in ECA’s Sports Diplomacy division, as well as Consular and Public Affairs Sections in three overseas assignments – Malaysia, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka/Maldives. Joshua studied at East Los Angeles Community College and holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern and a graduate degree from Georgetown.
Nikos Panagiotou, Associate Professor, Head of DCN Global, Greece
This event is co-organized by Digital Communication Network and World Learning and is part of DCNSEE’s Ideas in Action – Digital Engagement, a series of virtual events launched in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.
DCN is supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Citizen Exchanges. Digital Communication Network created in 2015, is a 7.000 member strong collaborative network that connects professionals from a variety of fields and different regions of the world, committed to have an impact in the new information space.