Two weeks ago we found ourselves working with Liverpool’s young creative talent at LJMU Game Jam and a day later Draw & Code joined the crafters, tinkerers and innovators at Liverpool Makefest. It all served to confirm that the future of technology and art is in very, very good hands…
First up, we were proud to act as some of the judges at the LJMU Game Jam. This 48 hour jam was aimed primarily at students, allowing them to put their skills to the test in a collaborative video game creation session. We popped in on each of the three days to talk to the jammers; what we found was a passionate and knowledgeable bunch. Some of the teams were old friends while others were only acquainted at the jam itself, but they all shared the same love of video games.
The theme for the jam was ‘the right game in the wrong place’, which resulted in some crazy concepts. Take Penguin Disco Fever; this saw the player guiding a penguin around a nightclub with the aim being to avoid dancing and to keep cool. Meanwhile AWOL embodied the theme perfectly by putting a super-tough Duke Nukem-esque sprite into a sickly-cute platform world as he attempted to find his way back to his own game.
There was also Cuberot, a game that portrayed an office environment through the eyes of of a worker who had ingested mind-altering substances. Mad Dog was another notable creation; not only for its theme, which saw a dog trying to rescue its owner, but also for the fact that it was programmed by a group that had never made a video game before! Perhaps the simplest game to emerge from the jam was also the toughest as Cars vs Zombies left you cursing, before you found yourself asking for one more go.
Overall the quality of the games was superb. Each team seemed to be using different tools and techniques, with all the resulting games varying wildly in terms of concept and execution. It’s a cliché, but all of the judges struggled to reach a verdict on which came addressed the brief best; happily there were accolades enough for everybody though with several 3D printed awards given out to those still standing at the end.
The event was non-stop, so there were some very, very exhausted people by the time Friday afternoon rolled around. However, they all had to be up bright and early the next day as they were appearing at Liverpool Makefest…
The following day it was our turn to show off our creations at Liverpool Makefest. This free festival allows Merseyside’s makers to show off their skills and it’s also the perfect opportunity for young people to get their hands on incredible gadgets or to try their hand at art. Held in Liverpool’s Central Library, it is a free event that encourages us to embrace our inner geek and to try everything from sculpting to 3D printing.
Draw & Code were proudly showing off our networked virtual and augmented reality prototype. Unfortunately our stand that we used in California for AWE 2015 was caught in customs, so we had to scale back our stall a little. In truth we didn’t mind as Liverpool Makefest was not about flashy stalls, it was all about showing off your kit. We still shared our virtual reality game with two users in virtual reality while another two interacted in the same 3D world using augmented reality. The only downside was that the room was so hot that our Samsung Gear VR’s kept overheating, forcing us to take extended breaks from demoing.
Setting up on the Friday night produced one of the sights of the weekend for us; we witnessed a Dalek traversing the library! Occasionally posing for pictures or stopping to threaten passers-by, it was the most peculiar sight. And no, there were no stairs to thwart its progress.
There were far too many brilliant exhibitors to list in full, but highlights included musical fruit and vegetables from the Makey-Makey Orchestra, FACT Lab’s ‘talking’ mobile phones and Tactile Electronics’ smart textile tech experiments. We were also deeply impressed by the stamina of the LJMU Game Jam teams who were nearly all present and correct at their stand only a day after their marathon game-creating session had finished!
The big thing that we took away from the event was the enthusiasm of the hundreds of young families. From toddlers to teens, we met some amazing kids many of whom were clearly so knowledgeable and imaginative. The future of tech in Liverpool is very bright indeed!