Life happens wherever you are, whether you make it or not.— Uncle Iroh
I spent all of last week with my Game Development class for Core Course Week. In two words: a blast.
To start off last week, our class was challenged to a 12 hour game jam. Similar to a hackathon, we were given a team, a time frame, and a goal: to make a video game prototype. What my group ended up making was not everything we had hoped for, but much more than I could’ve imagined.
The first phase of this project was to come up with an idea for a game. We were given a theme (“one button”) as a guideline but were otherwise free to create whatever we wanted. As we were all new to this environment, several of us brainstormed together and ended up with an idea that we all liked: poop. Now, let me explain. Our professor mentioned at the beginning of this project that we were not intended to make a full-fledged game by the end of the 12 hours, but rather a prototype (not even necessarily a working one) that could showcase our innovative game design, mechanics, graphics, etc.—whatever it was that we wanted to focus on. He emphasized the fact that the game might end up being “crap”, but that the effort was the important part. As we were all workshopping, someone brought up the notion that if we were meant to make a crappy game, why not make a crappy game? And so, Puppy Pooper (my group) and Pooping Puppies (the other group) were born.
The game development process was a bit haphazard after this. We laid out a blueprint for everything we wanted in the game, tackled chunks of it individually until they were working, and ended up scraping the other half of the ideas we didn’t have time to implement. When it was all over, we definitely had a working prototype and a playable experience. Our game was based on the premise of a person walking their dog and trying to get the dog to go to the bathroom on the grass instead of the sidewalk or a crosswalk. The person and dog would walk forward and accelerate and decelerate based on the player’s input on the spacebar (hold to slow down, release to speed up). The ground that the person and dog were walking on would be either grass, sidewalk, or a crosswalk and a timer would count down the seconds until the dog was going to go to the bathroom again. Points are gained for poops on the grass and lost for poops on the sidewalk, with lives (shown as doggy bags) being lost for poops on the crosswalk.
This whole experience was a ton of fun as we were able to experiment with game design in a pressure-free environment. This and visiting the Lego House (mentioned below) were the unmatched highlights of the week.
The next leg of our trip involved traveling to the second largest city in Denmark, Aarhus. While we were there, we visited several different tech and gaming companies and went to the ARoS Museum. I found it very interesting to see what each of the companies had to offer and how they were going about it. Here is a little snippet I took about each of the companies.
Our adventure started off at Kanda, a virtual-, augmented- and mixed-reality digital development studio. After a short presentation, they brought out some VR headsets that we were all able to try. It was really fun to see everyone in our group try VR (some for the first time)! Everyone was laughing and screaming together as they projected what was seen in the headset on a TV so everyone could watch. Several of us took a try at a satellite assembly program—one of their developed products. I am happy to say that I was able to assemble the satellite in one minute and forty five seconds.
Later that day, our next stop was the ARoS Museum, which is famous for its rooftop panoramic rainbow walkway. From there, you can see the entire city of Aarhus materialize in different colors around you. It is a truly wonderful experience that I had been looking forward to since I first came to Denmark. Though the roof is definitely its most well-known attraction, there were several other installations in the museum that I quite enjoyed as well.
After ARoS, we hustled to our hotel and ate a delicious dinner. Several of us then poked around Aarhus and ran into some fun places, including a playground that may or may not have been meant for children 😬.
The next morning, we started our day at Aarhus University with the creators of ScienceAtHome, a video game-oriented approach to scientific research. They talked us through some helpful steps in educational video game development and let us play-test their new project. After this, we stopped for lunch at Aarhus Streetfood, an indoor marketplace full of different food vendors (ranging from tacos and sushi to Nepalese and Jamaican cuisine). The food was good but the group bonding was better.
Our final company visit was to a couple of small indie game companies working near each other in a gaming incubator. After a couple of presentations about the game development process and some of the challenges faced by indie developers, we got to walk around the space and see how these small groups function.
Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the Lego House. We woke up on Saturday and quickly made our way to Billund, Denmark where the Lego House is located. While it was a pretty dreary day, my spirits were immediately lifted when we got inside. You are immediately greeted by the massive Tree of Creativity which stands at fifty feet and consists of over 6 million Lego bricks. I was blown away by the scale of this creation as I wound the staircase that surrounds it. Once you get to the top, you are greeted by five unique areas for playing, building, admiring, socializing, and creating with Legos. We had about three hours to explore and in that time I was barely able to scratch the surface of what is offered at the Lego House.
My favorite areas were the building and admiring ones. In the former, there were several pits of Legos sprawled out around a room where people were just building whatever their hearts desired. In a corner of that room there was a sectioned off area where there were only yellow and black Legos and we were meant to create our own interpretations of a giraffe. I spent close to a third of our time at the Lego House making my giraffe, but I think it was worth it.
The other area that I really had fun exploring was a room with three massive miniature models made completely out of Lego. These creations took over 24,000 hours to make, which is more than 600 full work weeks if you are counting. While these were impressive at a macro level, the true beauty of each model shone when you took the time to examine them closely. Each is packed full of fun pop-culture references ranging from movies and superheroes to musicians and art.
The end of the day sadly came very quickly and we were soon bussed away from a place I could’ve spent a week exploring. We arrived back in Copenhagen exhausted and content and with that, Core Course Week was concluded.
I spent the rest of my weekend sleeping.