In “Freaking Laser Beams,” players use mirrors to reflect light and solve puzzles. Courtesy Global Game Jam/Alvaro Gudiswitz

TU students compete in game-design contest

TU game design and programming majors worked with other talented creators in the Global Game Jam.

Last weekend, TU students participated in a programming event that took place close to home but had global implications. January 26 – 28 marked the second annual Global Game Jam Tulsa, the first on TU campus.
What’s a Game Jam? TU computer science and computer simulation and gaming major Alvaro Gudiswitz defined the event as similar to a jam session with musicians. “It’s the same concept…you get some artists, you get some coders, you get musicians, and then you just throw everybody together and try to make a game,” he explained.
Global Game Jam is this concept, coordinated on a global scale. There were meetups all around the world last weekend.
The Tulsa event was coordinated by Richard Mitchell and TU student Charles Geissen. The event took place in Tyrell Hall and was open to participants from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. throughout the weekend. Final presentations took place on Sunday in the Ellen G. Adelson Auditorium. “Worldwide, most of the venues were open 24 hours,” Gudiswitz explained.
“We actually had a really good turnout from TU,” he added. Out of the 40 or so people who showed up, he estimated that half were TU students — a stark contrast from last year’s Game Jam, in which two TU students participated.
Teams were given a soft deadline of 48 hours to create their own game, most of which were intended for PC. “Most of the teams end up using Unity, which is a basic 2D/3D engine. It’s just easy to use and very nice for programmers,” Gudiswitz said. One team, however, made a game based on physical playing cards — the only requirement is that the game fits a predetermined theme.
Game Jams usually have a theme for designers. This year’s theme for Global Game Jam Tulsa was “Transmission.” Participants divided up by talent (programmers, artists, musicians, etc.) to break the ice and determine team composition. Teams were fairly fluid and many participants collaborated with multiple teams.
Gudiswitz and fellow computer science and computer simulation and gaming major Aric Hasting were the two main programmers on a team that created “Freaking Laser Beams,” a seven-level game based on color theory. The player uses mirrors and prisms to transmit colored laser beams.
Other projects included a game where the player is a zombie trying to transmit the virus to other humans. The zombie is blind and has to echolocate by saying, “Braaaaains.”
“Throughout the whole night on the first, second, even third day, you just had people yelling, ‘BRAINS!’ right outside [the rooms in Tyrrell Hall],” Gudiswitz recalled.
In another game, the player is trying to make a call to their grandma on her birthday without losing the cell signal and sending her a confusing message (if you mess up too badly, Grandma dies of shock).
Gudiswitz likes Global Game Jam Tulsa because it offers a low-pressure creative environment. There’s often a competition and set winner in game jams, but “for this one, you’re just doing a Game Jam and that’s it. Have fun. Which is kinda nice because there’s no pressure. Just do your thing, have fun, and if you do well, awesome. If not, whatever.”
He also added that the environment was open to those with little gaming or programming experience.
“If you want to get involved in this, I would say do it, even if you don’t have that background,” Gudiswitz said. “Because seriously, as long as you can draw a picture, you’re fine. There were even people who hadn’t coded before, hadn’t programmed or anything, no art background, that were just there watching and asking questions.
“It’s there for you to learn how to make games,” he continued, “It’s not there so you can make a game. If you want to make a game, you can make a game on your own. The idea is that you can learn.”
Global Game Jam Tulsa was sponsored by the University of Tulsa and the George Kaiser Family Foundation. For more information, visit their website at

Post Author: Hannah Kloppenburg