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Video game developers showcase skills at Global Game Jam

Video game developers showcase skills at Global Game Jam
Video game developers showcase skills at Global Game Jam

2019-01-26 00:00:00 - Source: Rudaw

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ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Software developers and game enthusiasts of all levels came together this weekend to participate in Iraq’s first Global Game Jam, a 48-hour game developing project.

"This is helping to put Iraq in the spotlight that there is a game development community starting here," Danar Dlear Kayfi, organizer and Senior Game Developer at Fastwares Company in Erbil told Rudaw English.

The Global Game Jam has been organized around the world for over a decade with 114 countries and more than 46,000 people around the world having registered this year.

"They will pay close attention to what will happen in Iraq from now on. So it's like a bridge that will eventually help us make great connections with everyone outside the country," he added.

Kayfi explained that large game developers pay attention to people who participate in the Game Jam globally to find talented people to possibly hire.

"It's a whole different level for Iraq," he said.

Originally from Koya, Kayfi spent 13 years in Jordan where he learned computer developing through self-study. He went on to lead game developer communities there before returning to Kurdistan in 2016.

Twenty-eight people of all ages and levels attended the first meeting in person at Re:Coded headquarters in Erbil which began on Friday and will last three days.

The first day included an explanation of the program and rules, while allowing participants time to brainstorm ideas based on a specific theme for a game and form teams.

"Even if there are beginners who know nothing about gaming, we have some cool tools to make it simple for everyone," Kayfi explained.

Different gaming engines, such as Unity, Unreal and Scratch — which provide free ready-made graphics and code for development — are also shared with the developers.

At the last minute, Kayfi said he was contacted by another company out of Canada called Bolt Visual Scripting. It was excited to see the Global Game Jam being held in Iraq for the first time and offered to sponsor the event by offering free software.

"We'll create a game within 48 hours," he explained. "The idea is to gather, being here, meeting people and learning. We have some people here who already have a lot of knowledge about game development."

The second day will be a busy day with teams working on their project.

The final day is spent fixing errors, polishing up their games with final touches and also making sure that everyone understands and respects copyright laws.

Once the 48-hour game development process is complete, games are uploaded to the Global Game Jam website, and participants will receive a certificate of participation.

The participants of the first Global Game Jam in Iraq were eager and excited to be learning new things. 

Mohamed Tahir Ahmed, age 20, from Sulaimani said he graduated with a degree in IT but has been interested in gaming since he was a child.

"Ever since I was a kid I enjoyed playing games and was curious about how it was made. So a friend of mine encouraged me and step by step I got into developing and learned how to program games," Ahmed said.
He was happy to make the nearly three-hour journey from Sulaimani.

"So far this has been really fun finding so many people who are also interested in this," he added. "It's rare to find people interested in game development but it's exciting to be here.

Omar Amer, a 22-year-old student from Baghdad who studies Geology at Salahaddin University in Erbil, was also excited to be involved.

"I'm here to share my knowledge and participate in the Game Jam," he said. "I only have general information in programming so I'm excited to program my first game.

"This is so creative and inspires me to share my ideas," Amer added. "I’m looking forward to do that along with my friends here."

Kayfi encouraged anyone interested in game development to visit the Kurdish Game Developers page on Facebook to network with others people in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.

The creators of Global Game Jam stated that "Everyone brings their unique talents to the project. It's a blend of artists, designers, programmers, musicians, writers and voice actors from industry veterans to the mildly curious. Connecting with others to make something you love," in an informational video released prior to the beginning of the Game Jam which is held annually at the end of January.

Global Game Jam also encouraged Kayfi to open the event in other cities across Iraq.

"We already have contacts with people in Baghdad, Mosul, Sulaimani and Duhok," he said. "There are some small communities there but they are active.

He predicted next year more cities will host events in the Kurdistan Region and elsewhere in Iraq.

The free event was sponsored by Zain Telecom along with Bolt Visual Scripting.

Most employment in Iraq is related to the oil and public sectors. Officials in Baghdad and Erbil have sought to diversify the workforce, but a lack of jobs often drives talented youth abroad for employment. 

Photos: A.C. Robinson | Rudaw

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