Students’ talents on display at Global Game Jam


Global Game Jam 2013

When confronted with the pressure-filled creation of an entire video game in less than 48 hours, Stark State competitors in this year’s Global Game Jam in Cleveland said bring it.

“It was the first time I completely designed, completed and presented all the components of a game,” said video game design major Jarad Miller, who started his SSC career as a 15-year-old post-secondary student interested in a veterinary career. “It was challenging – you had to figure out what you wanted to do, then cut that in half because of the time (limit), then cut it in half again.”

Jarad and six other SSC students – Dan Losch, Steve Wamsley, Austin Rushe, David Shatz, Carl Grose and Blaine Heiser – competed in the Global Game Jam, a worldwide event involving 15,000 participants in 47 countries. For two days annually, developers pitch ideas, brainstorm and eat pizza.

SSC computer science instructor Mike Geig teamed up with two former students while Jarad and four other students worked together and two other Stark Staters paired up. Jarad’s team brought the game “Slambulance” to the screen. In line with this year’s theme of “Heartbeat,” the mission of “Slambulance” players is to rush a dying man to the hospital, but, ironically, keep him alive by crashing into other cars.

“The real highlights of the weekend were how impressive our students were,” Geig said. “I spent the entire time being complimented on how skilled, focused, and coordinated everyone was. No one could believe that most of the students were first-year without much experience at all (especially since they completed their game while many, like me, failed to do so). Several students talked with area professionals about future plans and employment. This event has in the past and continues to be a great experience for the students. It really shows them, and everyone else, that Stark State produces high caliber talent.”

Jarad, for instance, has found his classes challenging, “but I like that,” he said. “I like to push myself to improve my skills.” Despite a 45-minute daily commute from Atwater, he’s also gotten involved with some clubs on campus, including Future Speakers of America, The Edge, the video game club and the Software Development Guild.

“I’ve had a really good experience at Stark State,” said Jarad, who’s attending the College on a post-secondary scholarship. “I’ve had good professors who will help you whenever you need it. I’m learning new things, bettering myself. That it’s enjoyable is always a plus.”

After his first video game design course last semester enticed him into switching majors, Jarad will earn an associate of science degree in May before continuing on to finish his degree in video game design. He’s considering transferring those degrees to a four-year program, too. “It’s a flexible degree,” he said. “I’ll just keep pushing myself to keep getting better.” That includes a return to the Global Game Jam, even if it means sacrificing some sleep. “It’s not a sacrifice,” he said, “when it’s so fun.”