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From the MeGa Health Jam to the Armed Forces Jam, Indienomicon and the Central Florida Tech Grove have worked together to “gamify” training and simulations for government and industry using events called Game Jams. Game Jams are highly effective tools that allow developers to rapidly prototype software in a competitive setting.
On February 9, 2023, Austin Pinzon and Adrian Lannon, co-founders of A Squared Games & Simulation, and Chad Hoover, production manager for Mob Entertainment, discussed the usefulness of Game Jams as a rapid prototyping tool during an NTSA webinar.
Game Jams are timed challenges for developers to meet, build a team, develop a concept, and create a working prototype of their concept to compete against other teams. There may also be additional criteria, such as using specific hardware, software, or building with a particular goal in mind. Events may also give contestants access to new technology as well as subject matter experts to reference when developing. As Hoover describes it, Game Jams are broken into five stages: pitching, prototyping, polishing, uploading, and presenting.
Game Jam success stories are varied and can range from popular games such as SuperHot and Goat Simulator, which were made for the 2013 7 Day FPS Challenge and the 2014 Coffee Stain Game Jam respectively, or Spiro, which was built at the 2022 MeGa Health Jam at the Tech Grove. Spiro used a Wind Synth, which measures exhalation output from a user, to play breathing-based mini games that functioned as breathing exercises for respiratory therapy, scuba training, easing anxiety attacks, and more.
Lannon shared a comment by NAWCTSD’s Captain Dan Covelli about game jams. “The Navy and other military branches need the simulations used to train service members to be higher quality, more accessible, and more frequent in order to keep up with competitors and that tapping game developers in the private sector is key to doing that.”
The annual Armed Forces Jam gives space for just that, allowing sponsors to submit challenges for the teams to build solutions towards during the event.
These events are built for prototyping. A fully polished simulation or game takes months to develop, and as Pinzon explains, the purpose of a Game Jam is to take a concept, take a vertical slice out of the middle of it, and build that vertical slice throughout the challenge as a demonstration of what the full, finished product would look like.
Game Jams can be used to troubleshoot and revamp existing systems. “As long as the system is tangible, something we can engage with, within scope to do in a Game Jam, and shareable with the jam, it’s a possibility. However, if you have to have high level security clearance to access the system, that doesn’t really help your average developer at a Jam,” says Pinzon.
The possibilities of development and prototyping within Game Jams are truly limitless.
For more information on Game Jams and Indienomicon, please visit https://www.indienomicon.org/. Team Orlando’s coverage of the most recent Armed Forces Jam and MeGa Health Jam are available on https://teamorlando.org/, and access to the full
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