There has never been a better time to get into game development. Whether you’re curious, just starting out or an experienced developer, one of your greatest assets will be the online game development community and the resources they provide. Ubongo Game Lab has existed in Zambia as a community interested in game development and has been hosting various events and game jams since 2013. However, there is much to learn by expanding your circle beyond the local scene as a game developer. Here are some useful places to get started that might fit your goals or needs.
The first one’s an easy one but could probably give the most impact to your access to game development. Many of you should already be on twitter but if not, this will be a great way to start. The global conversation and current trends related to game development can mostly be followed through #gamedev. Other hashtags such as #indiedev, #gameart and even #unity3d could lead you to some inspiration. Get your work out there with #screenshotsaturday where game developers from all experience levels share screenshots and clips of their current works. If you’re gonna follow the conversation, it would also be a great idea to follow industry leads and various voices from the game development community. Two personal favorites I would recommend are McFunkypants and RickKing16. And anyone you like on any of the above hashtags would probably be worth a follow too.
Below is a list of recommended publications and people to follow on twitter from Lauren Scott’s talk at the Game Developers Conference on “Healthy Habits of Successful Game Developers”. (Worth a watch if you’re looking towards game development as a career)
Game jams in general are a great opportunity to collaborate and put out a game using a rapid results driven approach. If you’re not familiar with what a game jam is, here’s a quick definition off Wikipedia.
“ A game jam is a gathering of game developers for the purpose of planning, designing, and creating one or more games within a short span of time, usually ranging between 24 and 72 hours. Game developers are generally made up of programmers, game designers, artists, and others in game development-related fields.”
Taking place on the last weekend of January every year, the Global Game Jam is the worlds largest game development event where communities from all over the world simultaneously take on the challenge to create a game in 48 hours. Last year, the Global Game Jam took place in 93 countries around the world and produced over 6800 games. Zambia has been taking part in the GGJ since 2014 at Bongohive. The current Regional Organizer for Sub-Saharan Africa in charge of approving sites for the Global Game Jam is also Zambian (that’s me).
As the biggest of game jams, the global game jam is a large well organised international community that is growing with the help of volunteers around the world. Anyone can host a game jam if they have an appropriate place where people can gather. If you don’t have any GGJ sites near you, consider hosting one yourself. We definitely need more locations in Africa. And being a site organiser only brings you closer to the warm international community and provides many more opportunities for you as an organiser.
The next Global Game Jam will be happening from the 20th — 22nd January 2017.
South Africa has been producing dozens of creative over the years. From Toxic Bunny in 1996 to one of the most recent mega hits, Broforce. On the African continent, arguably the most visible and well developed game development industry would be that of South Africa’s independent game development community. How visible? 2097 online members visible. The Make Games SA website attracts an average of 2000 views per day both in and out of the forum. As near neighbors, many of the and it’s quite inspirational to see game development thrive that close to home.
Join the MakeGamesSA forums and get into general discussions, get help, take part in online game jams, hear about events and find out about job opportunities from within the community. If you happen to be in Cape Town or Joburg, join them for their regular community meet ups.
Itch.io is an indie games marketplace and community that has grown considerably among developers. It’s free to join and allows you to host and sell your games. Itch even allows you to set up donations on your page. There are many free resources available on itch too and you can purchase reasonably priced game assets here. Honestly this is a real gem for indie developers and invaluable in controlling your market. Get on it while it’s hot.
The motivation behind 1GAM can be summarised in their simple tagline — “Make Games not Excuses”
1GAM is a personal challenge that runs continuously throughout the year that allows you to publish a game at the end of every month based on a given theme. You can decide your own commitment to the jam that has been running continuously for 4 years. If you don’t have a current project you’re working on, would like to exercise your creative ability or are just getting started with game development, try it out this month. The theme for July is FAR AND WIDE.
Not only is the site nice to look at but the membership experience has been gamified. Jump in and earn some XP. If you require some more guidance, read this tutorial by the 1GAM creator Christer McFunkypants Kaitila and get to know the McFunkypants methodology on how to make a dozen games in a year.
In just a few weeks this group has grown to over 100 members interested in or curious about the art of game development in Zambia. If you would like a feel of what’s going on in the Zambian Game Development scene, don’t hesitate to join the group.