One of my most favourite places to go when I’m not at school is MadLab, Edge Street, in the Northern Quarter of Manchester. You really do meet the nicest kind of people there; well I suppose that’s because I always happen to meet other people there who share similar interests to me. In addition to this, Madlab host a great many courses and user groups, as well as the Manchester RaspberryJam.
Yesterday I felt compelled to go there and meet Dan Hett the organiser of the Manchester Game Jam and the other jammers. Dan’s a regular blogger and it was reading about previous Game Jams, that made me feel as though I was missing out on yet another opportunity to help children learn about computing and inspire them.
During the short few hours I was there, I took many photos (Gallery here) and interviewed some people to hear from them why they were drawn to the Game Jam. My first interview was with Dan Hett and Mike Thompson in which he describes what is happening. The second interview was with some under 18s Jack, Elise and William who were all working in a team. It was particularly impressive that these children are part of the legacy of Young Rewired State 2012, having attended the Madlab YRS centre. Although Jack, Elise and William were all at the centre at the same time, they were not previously friends or had even gone to the same school. However, they all have one thing in common, they have been inspired to create with code.
When I arrived on the top floor of the building, I discovered around 20 coders all building games. I felt quite self-conscious as the room was as quiet as you would expect a library to be. I instantly felt re-assured when I recognised my fellow BarCamp friends Jack and Jack. I interviewed Jack & Jack to hear from them what they were doing and why they decided to brave the Manchester rain instead of staying at home to do this. I quickly became engrossed in a conversation with a game developer who wants to open a school in Thailand.
There was another interesting group back downstairs, this was a real multi-disciplinary group. I asked each one of them in turn to introduce themselves, why they were there and what they were doing. I christened the team ‘Caoimhe’ after the names of one of the team members.
As well as programming and developing games, there was one group that seemed to be playing a low tech game using a whiteboard and pens. In fact they were playing a large scale immersive game using mobile devices such as tablets and phones to communicate between players outside on the streets of Manchester, they not only had to contend with the pursuit of rabid Zombies but also had to fight off the omnipresent Manchester rain! It was interesting listen to Dan Hett the organiser explain that he used Ludum Dare as the focus for the Game Jam, but rather than insist all attendees participate for the full 48 hours of the festival, he allowed groups to take part in smaller episodic elements. I noted that many of the people there intimated that while they could do this sort of thing at home, they each felt that they gained much more from the collaborative opportunities of working with other like minded individuals. Full credit to Dan who will soon be starting a new post at BBC North as a games developer, an opportunity which arose out of the last Game Jam. So, I would encourage anyone even slightly interested to attend future games jams, you just don’t know what opportunities they may lead to. As I was leaving more people were arriving and this was only the first day.