It was the first time I joined The Global Game Jam and a new discovery for me.
The first discovery was that of the location. It was my first visit to “The Garage”. Literally a garage, located in an old building, among other garages and storage rooms. Oil and tools, peeling walls, and rusty metal gates. The Garage must be one of the most famous locations among the Israeli Hi Tech industry in the last several years. A group established around it, “The Garage Geeks“, has been hosting various hi-tech events there.
I didn’t verify statistics, but we were told that our Israeli Game-Jam group was one of the largest groups. We had close to 60 participants. Unfortunately, less than 10% female presence, though.
The garage was packed when I arrived Friday morning. People brought folding tables inside, so they will have a proper sitting area, and it was so crowded we could hardly move between the tables. Seems like most of the people knew each other, or at least there were groups of people who know each other. Yuval Sapir who organized it with people from the Israeli chapter of IGDA like Oded Sharon and the Garage people like Rafael Mizrahi, spoke on behalf of the Global Game Jam and ran their introduction including the constraints and guideline for the creation of games. That’s when the wheels started to move and people began pouring their game ideas.
This creative session was one of the best parts of the game jam. Game developers can be technical people, programmers, or writers – narrators, graphic designer, or animators, not to mention music composers. Some see games through numbers or command lines, some through words, there are those who visualize games and those who can hear them. It is a multi-disciplinary industry, which makes a creative session incredibly interesting. Ideas started to shoot and people contributed each with their own view-point to all game ideas. For the next 36 hours people formed groups and started to work on their games. Some members contributed to more than one group. Seems like graphic designers were needed the most and programmers also exchanged information and helped each other. Narration was less needed for these 5 minute games.
On the second day, games were already taking form and sound. By the evening of this day uploads started. The Israeli session had to cut in shorter than others, as by Sunday most participants have to go back to work.
The Israeli Game Development industry grows steadily over the last few years. Several years ago one of the colleges opened a program for certificate in Game Development. IGDA, the International Game Developers Association has an active chapter in Israel, and people are trying to create collaborations with the international game developers’ community through various channels. However, Israel does not stand out in the global community. Here, it is still considered to be a developing industry. Venture investments in games in Israel if made, concentrate on supporting technology, and not content. Successful Israeli game developers who “made it”, had to make it in the US, with companies like Oberon Media and Impact Games.
The global digital games industry is growing steadily for years now. It’s one of the very few economic segments that are, more or less, recession-proof.
Games supply the most accessible and one of the cheapest channels of entertainment. With more people at home and less money to spend, experts predict a change in the industry, but certainly not a fall like in other industries. Some even predict a positive impact in the coming year.
So here we have a young industry, with lots of room to grow to, with good timing, relatively to other industries, yet, no interested investors. Game developers I spoke with suspect this lack on interest by potential investors may be due to their lack of understanding in the industry, others seem to think that even the well-known-risk-investors are looking for safe harbors nowadays, not to mention quick return on their investments. Not all games are that quick. So Israeli game developers are forced to look for investments abroad. Placing a question mark over the future of this industry in Israel .