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When is the last time you attended a game jam? The Jiwe game jam started on Friday the 16th of April 2021 and ended on Monday the 19th of April 2021.  First, Max Musau the CEO introduced the jammers to Jiwe Studios and all its offerings. He alluded to the fact that Game Development is a challenging task and is said to be one step higher than Artificial Intelligence Development. The more reason that Game Developers should be part of communities where they support each other as they grow in the industry.

That's why Jiwe is open to supporting Game Developers even in the publishing of their games and offering resources that will help them bring their ideas to life through the platform jiwe.io

Charles Mabwa the Developer Outreach Coordinator at Jiwe Studios, took over after Max and announced the six themes of the game jam:  Wildlife Protect, Beachlife, Corruption, Inconvenient superpowers, Upcountry, and Ubuntu Island. He opened the floor for any questions and one concern was whether or not the jammers were allowed to combine different themes in their games. The answer was yes, and that Jiwe Studios encouraged the exploration of one’s creative juices so the developers were allowed to do so.

Charles explained how the teams would meet on the Discord channel and could do so as soon as the meeting was over at 5:45 pm. The first day would be dedicated to the team members getting to know each other and brainstorming ideas around the design constraints of their respective games.

On Saturday, the session would start at 9 am and the teams would present to Max what they planned to do - which would take 10 minutes. After that, there would be a team standup where the team members would assign each other tasks. After this, the prototyping and the game development would begin.

Charles explained the importance of taking health breaks and that Jiwe Studios had  inserted them in the schedule for the jammers' convenience. Game development would continue up to around 7 pm on Saturday but the jammers would be free to continue working late into the night depending on whatever worked for them.

On Sunday at 9 am, the teams would check up with Max again and share what they planned to achieve on that day. After that, the teams would assign each other different tasks for that day under the Discord voice channel.

This would then lead to the game jamming session where the teams would jam till around 4:30 pm. After this, they would have a playtesting and game refining session which would involve the teams testing each other’s work, which at this stage would either be a working prototype or a game.

Once the teams receive feedback they would take the next hour to refine their games. If everything is ready, the jammers could submit as early as 5:30 pm on Sunday; however, the submissions would be open until 11:59 pm on Sunday.

Judging would start on Monday and it would extend till Tuesday while the winners would be announced on Wednesday.

Charles took the jammers through some housekeeping and how the game jam’s discord would be structured. He illustrated all the important aspects of the discord channel.

After this, Max invited the Jiwe team to introduce themselves. The team welcomed the jammers encouraging them to enjoy themselves and make sure they learn. Max highlighted the goals of the Jiwe Game Jam as follows: build a game/working a prototype, constructively collaborate, and learn something new while sharing knowledge.

Max also informed the jammers of how they could access the onboarding document and took them through the judging criteria. Mechanics, creativity, and originality scored the highest, highlighting the areas where most emphasis would be placed. After that, the CEO announced the prize categories and the gamers choice award category where gamers would choose which game was their favourite. The gamers choice award would win Jiwe Studios merchandise. Finally, jammers were introduced to the teams they were placed into.

Saturday started with updated timelines. Adjustments in the timelines considered the fact that it took a while for some teams to be formed and thus gave them more time for the brainstorming/ideation process. It began at 9 am - 1:00 pm EAT. Then from 1:00 - 7:00 pm prototyping and game development would take place.

On Sunday the schedule remained the same only that submissions deadlines would be extended from midnight to Monday afternoon (3 pm).

In the morning, Max availed himself for any questions on Jiwe Discord channels main presentation room for an hour from 9-10 am. The teams went on with their ideation and prototyping and in the evening at 6 pm, Max met up with two teams.

Andrew Atianyi was in team 1. He decided to work on this particular game jam on his own. He is from Kenya and works as a Freelancer, building apps and developing games. He has a certificate in 2D Animation from RUBIKA which is offered by Africa Digital Media Institute.

He decided to work with the theme of corruption and his inspiration came from a set book he read in high school called Betrayal in the City. His game 8 pm  was inspired by the current curfew that Kenyans are facing due to the Corona pandemic.

Team 2 comprised Ian Davis Okinda, Brian Kamau Njenga, Reuben Kiarie and Moazer Babiker Abdalla. Ian works as a Developer, while Brian is a 3D Generalist and a Graphic designer in the Ads sector; he has a passion for gaming and was happy that the team was working in sync. Reuben, a software developer, was the team's Game Designer and along with Ian and Brian represented Kenya.

Moazer is a 3D artist based in Khartoum, Sudan. Moazer highlighted the fact that his team had an awesome 3D artist (Brian) who took most of the heavy work and he was left to handle the human characters and their animations in the game.

The team used the Unreal engine for the development. They decided to use Unreal because it saves on a lot of coding. The name of their game was Amani and the lost island of Zamani. Their inspiration stemmed from a series of discussions on wildlife and nature as well as their mutual concern on poaching and wildlife protection. They want to save the animals.

Team 3 comprised Chibueze Igbokwe, Fred Omollo and Jean Irene Confident Niyizibyose. It was the most culturally diverse team. Chibueze is based in Lagos, Nigeria. He works as a Safety Engineer and a Freelance Game Developer.  He worked as the programmer in the team and helped in setting up the initial prototype.

Fred is based in Kisumu, Kenya. He works as a lecturer and a game developer. Fred had the following to say about the team on the fourth day of their working together:  “So far so good, they are self-driven and collaborative individuals.” He was in charge of asset creation, level design, game logic and mechanics.

Confident is from Kigali, Rwanda. He works as an AR/VR Developer. He contributed towards gameplay development with Unity 3D. He highlighted the fact that his team wanted to encourage players to take care of wildlife’s ecosystems by dropping trash from around the beach into dustbins.

The title of their game was Isla Trash Picker and it was inspired by the danger irregular waste dumping poses to nature. An article they read from National Geographic’s website titled marine pollution explained also inspired their thought process.

Berhane Wheeler from Windhoek, a student from Namibia, was in team 4 on his own. The name of his game was Who’s stealing my money?. His game was inspired by the Fishrot scandal happening in Namibia that robbed the Namibian citizens of millions of dollars. He wants to uncover corrupt people. He took the role of a Game Programmer, a Game Designer, a Game Artist, and sourced his music from YouTube.

Team 5, also known as team Overlords, comprised Joseph Tolulope Mofoluku, Faluta Oluwafemi, Odutayo Adeyemo Balogun and Bwemana Jonathan Marawes. The name of their game was Protector; they got their inspiration from a game character called Kirby from the Kirby series of video games owned by Nintendo.

Joseph is a Software Developer based in Lagos, Nigeria. He was working as a Game Designer and a Game Programmer.

Faluta is a 3D Modeller and Animator based in Lagos, Nigeria. He mentioned that their game was inspired by illegal poaching activities in Africa. When asked about his experience so far he had the following to say: “Slow, this is our first jam so we are struggling to meet up with the deadline. It has been fun and stressful at the same time, I was out of town in a more rural part of Nigeria without my PC which also delayed the production significantly. Grateful for the experience in general.”

Odutayo is also based in Lagos, Nigeria and works as a Game Developer. He was working on Enemy AI. Jonathan, from Jos, Nigeria, works as a Game Developer, Animator and Software Developer. He added that they were also inspired by their love for playing and creating games. He worked on character creation.

On Wednesday the 22nd of April at 12:30 pm, the winners of the game jam were announced. Dean Gichukie the head of marketing at Jiwe Studios thanked the participants for putting their best feet forward and representing their respective countries well. Before announcing the winners, Dean took the participants through the judging criteria.

He highlighted the fact that their work was seen by a team of 8 judges who are all experts within the game development space. They all played the games a couple of times and put in their scores and feedback. The games were categorized in 6 ways:

  1. Originality in comparison to other games played around the world. How different and truly groundbreaking was the game?
  2. Mechanics: how unique the mechanics were and how fun the game was.
  3. Art and the graphics of the game: how aesthetically good did the game look?
  4. Audio and music of the game: how interesting it was and whether it communicated the overall story of the game.
  5. Adherence to the theme of the jam: how well the teams were able to tie the game to the themes of the jam.
  6. Creativity: how unique was the original thought process of the game? It was connected to the mechanics, graphics, audio etc.

Dean explained the sum of the breakdown of the scores would be shared  afterwards. On saying that, he went on to add that one of the award categories - the gamers choice award - was yet to be filled and in order for that to happen, there had to be some involvement with the community members.  Jammers had the opportunity to continue developing their game for the gamers choice award.

Jiwe would be willing to give the teams an extra week for development to enhance the game as much as they could. The deadline would be next Thursday 12:30 pm. The games would then be submitted in gamers groups which would then go on and rate the games out of 5. The games would be submitted on the Jiwe.io platform  and the teams would be given instructions on how to do that. Dean clarified that the gamers would still own the games and the platform will give them an opportunity to get a pool of fans who would download the games. The winners of the gamers choice would be announced on Monday the 26th of April.

After this, he went on to make the announcements of the winning teams. The team that was awarded third place was Who is stealing my money? by Berhane Wheeler from Namibia. The game scored 28.9. He got a lot of points for being original and adhering to the overall theme of the jam.

Number 2 with a score of 36, was the game Amani and the lost Island of Zamani by Ian Davis Okinda, Brian Kamau Njenga, Reuben Kiarie and Moazer Babiker Abdalla. They got high points on graphics (their graphics were very interesting) and their gameplay and mechanics were really good.

The winner with 41 points was 8 pm by Andrew Atianyi. He led at almost every segment. His creativity, audio and adherence to the theme were fantastic, the graphics and mechanics were amazing and on top of that, the game was extremely original.

Charles took over after the awards session and congratulated the winning teams. He went on to highlight the fact that Jiwe Studios would like to host monthly game jams and  in June, Jiwe Studios would be partnering with Africacomicade for a gamathon which would include a 48-hour hackathon. It would start with a 3-day webinar and there would be opportunities for funding and incubation after the hackathon.

Jiwe Studios would discuss how they would support the jammers who attended the inaugural Jiwe game jam to attend the Africacomicade hackathon. Jiwe Studios official next game jam would be towards the end of July.

Charles handed the baton to Linda who reminded the winning teams to share their Mpesa numbers or PayPal details with either Dean or Charles. The games would be uploaded onto Jiwe.io so that different teams could interact with each other's work. With that, Max closed off with the following to say: “Congratulations to the winners, I’m looking forward to interacting with everyone in the next coming jams as well.”

I’m happy the competition was stiff meaning all the participants did excellent work. I would like to challenge all game developers to maintain a community as Max highlighted its importance at the beginning of the game jam. Jiwe is open to supporting Game Developers in the publishing of their games and offering resources that will help them bring their ideas to life so you are welcome to our online Jiwe community.

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