On being a part of the Jury at the Nasscom GameJam Titans - Start-Up Hyderabad
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On being a part of the Jury at the Nasscom GameJam Titans

 9 years ago    

It was the summer of 1998, It was a usually hot summer as far as I can remember, I was spending it as custom would have it at my Maternal grandparents house. I have always loved this house, because it was spacious and had a big garden with Mango trees, Guava trees, Jackfruit and some more Mango trees. Echoing through the backyard was my mom shouting “Vatsal, Where are you? VATSAL! Just go take a bath and then go back to whatever it is you are doing! “ *Insert a few grievances to the almighty about how I am such a naughty kid* and the day would continue as lazy summer vacation days should.

My uncle who used to travel a lot for business even in those days had just come back from Singapore. Each time he visited he would bring my brother and I something good; usually it would be chocolates, clothes or some stationary objects. This time, this one summer it was something special. He brought for us our very first Nintendo Gameboy, the B&W display version and along with it he brought two game cartridges one for Super Mario Bros and the other for Tetris.

My brother and I prior to this had only played games on the computer back at home. I should also mention here in case they do end up reading this blog that my parents have been very very supportive of our technological advancements right since childhood. I remember as a kid that my brother and I would play solitaire on the computer at home which used to be a rickety old Windows 3.11 machine with about 8mb of ram or such. The kicker was that it had an actual lock to the CPU which my parents would put to use whenever either of us refused to get up from fiddling around with it.

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 4.19.29 pm
(The System in the background that was running windows 3.11 and later on prince 1 )

Going back to the summer at the grandparents house, my brother and I plugged in the cartridge and started playing Super Mario Bros and the kicker here was that there was no concept of a save point. So essentially if you lost all your lives, then you basically started from scratch. This led to both of us taking turns and playing while making sure that the adapter is constantly connected to the plug point. Fast forward to a couple years and my brother and I are both playing a myriad array of games on the computer (an upgraded version obviously ). A few years later it led to a career in the gaming industry from my end while my brother being the elder one had moved onto to a more serious conventional career path. 

Cut to the present day, or actually 31st August 2014 at Hyderabad. The location is ICBM and the Nasscom Game Jam Titans in association with MindBox currently underway. I was asked to be one of the jury members to check out the games that would come up on display and adjudicate two winners each from amongst the categories of Schools and Colleges / Professionals.

The school kids were up first, there were about 14 teams from different schools across the city. We were told that teams in each school were given a 4 hour training session on the UNITY dev kit by MindBox representatives and beyond which they were given a week to come up with games based on the themes of either Pollution or Grass. Given these details I had assumed that kids would come up with very rudimentary concepts for games and it would not really be that hard to judge them.

But boy oh boy was I wrong! And I am glad that I was too because the kind of dedication that these kids were putting into their games and the effort they showed to go beyond just what the teachers had taught them, they went onto Youtube saw training videos of how to use more effects and implemented them into their games. Both me and the other Jury member Safal from Electronic Arts were blown away by these kids. Their ideas were innovative, a few were well thought out both artistically and programmatically.

The best part for me was seeing how kids from a variety of age groups were getting together to form teams and competing in the event. We saw kids from as low as class 6 participating in the event and proudly telling us that they helped script a few segments of the game that they were featuring. I was getting goosebumps just moving around and watching all these excited kids talk about their games, It was a surreal place to be in because at that point in my own life, at their age, all I could think of was just playing games and never really tried making any. Apart from a few games that my brother and I made on a Spectrum console, I never really made any attempts at actual games by myself.


Eventually it was getting very difficult for us to choose just 2 winners from the pool of 14 teams, we wanted everyone to be a winner! But we narrowed it down to a team that came up with an innovative game based on both Pollution and Maze. Their game was a maze solver called Go Green where you were a cosmic ball of energy collecting garbage along the way. The more garbage you collected the greener the surroundings became, thereby creating a very nice visual effect overall. They had done additional research by themselves to go beyond what they were taught and showcased it very nicely.

During the break, all we could talk about was how impressed we were by these kids! The glow on the faces of the MindBox team and the Nasscom team was showing and rightly so! They were doing a fantastic job with encouraging kids to break the barrier in getting into making their own games. Unity going free and targeting schools is a boon to the gaming industry, opening up so many doors and avenues for kids nowadays who combine that with the era of the internet and KABLAMMO innovation explosion.

The second session was the college / professional segment and here they were given only two days to make their game and the theme for them was Rock / Mud. We had higher expectations from people in this category and they had some interesting games to feature, but one that really caught our eye was the team which chose to use the language to their advantage and made a game based on music.


It was a side scrolling platformer, where the character’s size would increase or decrease based on the type of music that was being player. So high notes or rock music would increase the player in size allowing to break obstacles along the way and softer notes would reduce the player’s size and allow him to skip through barriers along the way. These guys ended up winning the second half of the competition and promised to polish their game and make it a whole lot better before they show it at the Nasscom GDC in Pune later in the year.

At the end of a seemingly long day, one where we spent close to 2 hours in each round talking to the participants and thoroughly enjoying it was a Sunday well spent. It gave us hope and faith in the future of the industry and reassured us that there is in fact light shining on the Indian gaming scene and its growth. The kids of today are intelligent, informed and eager to break in.



Guest - Vatsal Chintalapati


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