Global Game Jam 2017: On the Importance of Art

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Posted January 27, 2017 by Chad Waller in Video Games

On January 19, 2017 news broke that Donald Trump planned on ending the National Endowment for the Arts, and on January 20th, 2017, my brother and I drove back to Herzing University for my second Global Game Jam. I find the two things to be related, though not in a cause/effect way but in accidental principle. Herzing University is getting rid of its Game Development program and, by proxy, its hosting of the Global Game Jam.

Now, I’m not going to get into the details because 1) I don’t have all them and 2) I don’t know what is technically on or off the record, but a quick trip to their website shows the removal of the game development program.

Suffice to say, it’s both complicated and heartbreaking.

I spent 48 hours of my weekend—a weekend I took vacation days for—busting myself beyond what every doctor would call healthy to make art. At least 30 other people did too. Was I sleep deprived? Yes. Did I eat the worst kind of junk food? Yes. Was I mentally exhausted? Yes. Did I smell like a caveman when all was said and done? Yes.

By all accounts, it was an unhealthy weekend, yet it wasn’t. I needed that weekend. I needed a stupid reason to create for 48 hours because to me, that’s the most important thing a person can do. I have a feeling the 30+ people at Herzing would agree.

Art is important.

To play a video game is a magical experience; to read a novel a profound one. To listen to a song life changing.

I know this because I was there. I talked to people who love making video games, drawing, programming, and everything in-between, and due to life circumstances, this is now the only chance they get to do any of that. This is their Christmas. It’s not about receiving gifts but spending 48 hours in creative mode, sleeping for maybe six hours, and then standing back when all is said and done with a finished product and the pride that comes with it.

These are the kinds of people that could make the next big video game or direct the next big movie. These are the kinds of people that could change the world. And Herzing, well Herzing should be proud to have given them all a space to work.

I also talked to the people that were simply curious. Not everyone there was enrolled at Herzing; some showed up to see what game development was all about. One woman loved drawing and painting in high school but stopped once school was over. She wanted an excuse to draw again. She got it.

Artwork is important.

If you don’t believe me then consider this: Iceland reduced its teenage alcohol abuse problem by almost 40% between 1998 and 2016 by expanding afterschool activities—including the arts.

“‘We didn’t say to them, you’re coming in for treatment. We said, we’ll teach you anything you want to learn: music, dance, hip hop, art, martial arts.’ The idea was that these different classes could provide a variety of alterations in the kids’ brain chemistry, and give them what they needed to cope better with life: some might crave an experience that could help reduce anxiety, others may be after a rush.”

People want to feel fulfilled. People want to feel like they’ve done something that matters. Creating gives them that.

I look back at the weekend and would need all ten fingers and all ten toes to list everything that went wrong. I was cursed. Car troubles, computer problems, a bathroom mishap that doesn’t need any more details than that, yet I’d do it all again. I lost eight hours worth of audio work, and I’d do it again.

Because I’ll be damned, directing and recording the announcer audio for our silly Super Smash Brother’s clone was amazing. That feeling of getting the perfect, “GAME!”, of getting the reverb levels just right to make it sound almost a little robotic, and then going, “Everyone you have to listen to this right now!” was, well, hard to put into words.

I am grinning just thinking about it though.

I don’t want to end this on a downer, and there are glimmers of hope for Herzing’s Global Game Jam. There might be another in 2018. I hope so, because I want to go back. I owe it a better year, one with less problems. I also want to see everyone again. To think that this might be the last time I group up with Courtney, Matt, and Laramie really upsets me. I also want to ask the dude wearing a cowboy hat and an Amon Amarth shirt his name, because he was beyond cool and fun to talk to.

Guys, please, please support your local artists. Go see a local play, buy an indie record, grab a random $10 game off of steam or a $.99 book off of the Amazon store. Leave a positive review. It will absolutely make someone’s day.

Art is important. To quote Nightwish,

Man, he took his time in the sun
Had a dream to understand
A single grain of sand
He gave birth to poetry
But one day’ll cease to be
Greet the last light of the library

And for the curious (you did make it this far), here’s some footage of Cosmic Crash, the silly little game we made in 48 hours.


About the Author

Chad Waller

Chad Waller is the cofounder of Dual Wield Software, a two-man video game company that just published The Land of Glass on Steam. You should check it out! You can follow him on Twitter @DualWieldSoft and find his company page on Facebook with a quick search.