Local Makers Rep The Game Developers Conference, Jam on Trains, And Demo Pinbrawl

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The Game Developers Conference just wrapped up its 31st year, treating thousands of attendees to roundtable discussions, tutorials, summits and product booths.

Industry titans like Sony and Microsoft made their usual appearances, but the five-day event was so many independent game creators including a healthy presence from the Twin Cities area.

GLITCH and Power Leveling

GLITCH is a Minneapolis-based nonprofit dedicated to exploring games as a career, culture and creative practice. They host an annual program called Power Leveling that connects young industry professionals with seasoned veterans within their disciplines. Participants (called Guild Members) enjoyed free All Access passes courtesy of the GDC Scholarship Program. Their Guild Leaders secured intimate company visits, meetings with other veterans, and invitations to exclusive networking events.

Guild Leaders included Jane Ng, Lead Artist at Campo Santo, Mike Mariano, Lead UI Designer at Disney/Lucasfilm Games, and Balázs Török, Senior Tech Programmer at Poland’s Techland.

Train Jam and an NYU Game Design Cohort

Minnetonka native Corey Bertelsen is currently pursuing his MFA in Game Design from NYU. This year he was thrilled to learn that the school’s Student Ambassador program allowed him to participate in in Train Jam, a 52-hour game making marathon that takes place entirely on a train. From Chicago to San Francisco, developers have the opportunity to find teams, come up with their ideas, and complete them before pulling to a stop in the Bay Area.

“The scenery was gorgeous,” remarks Bertelsen, who created an abstract puzzle game called Whisper during the trip. Created with fellow students Dennis Carr and Mostafa Haque, they wanted to incorporate autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) in a game. “Think of whispers, water pouring, or the sound of pages turning in a book,” Bertelsen says.

When asked what advice he’d give to those who’d like to try, Bertelsen responded, “I would recommend making a game with people you don’t know, or at least chatting with as many strangers as you can. And bring non-perishable food.”

Local Teams Show Off Their Games to Thousands

Pin brawl is an upcoming game for XBox One being developed by Northern Heart Games. The Minnesota-based team showed their shared-screen, pinball fighter game at ID@Xbox, an initiative aimed at finding passionate indie developers and streamlining the process of getting their game on a console.

Artist, developer and co-founder Jason Pfitzer said it was really easy to apply for ID@Xbox. “I just polished the game to a point I was comfortable pitching the idea, got some gameplay footage together and Googled ‘ID@Xbox’.” He and Krantz showed Pinbrawl to GDC attendees in Moscone Center South. “Almost everyone loved it! Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, which really surprised me,” said Pfitzer. They also got some great feedback on how to make the game better that they’ll be incorporating over the next several months.

Minneapolis-based Space Mace Games sent Zachary Johnson to San Francisco to show off Joggernauts at The MIX (Media Indie Exchange) at GDC. The game is a local cooperative game that tasks players with working together to jog, jump and switch places with teammates. The MIX brings together developers, journalists and streamers to check out games in a less chaotic environment than the rest of the convention.

Johnson’s team worked hard to get ready for the event and was delighted by the positive response from guests. “Games press can be very segmented and some journalists will only cover specific niches of games, but even the folks that won’t cover our game still seemed to really enjoy it.” When asked if there were any surprises from the week, Johnson simply said, “I don’t remember. It is all a blur.”

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