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Global Game Jam designers busy inventing

Gamers are always looking for a new conquest.

And a group of local designers participating in a worldwide challenge are hoping to give them ample cause to break out the joysticks and game pieces.

But the aspiring inventors – participants in Global Game Jam 2015 – have only 48 hours to create a game – and based on a theme not of their choosing.

The annual event unfolding at Canisius College and sites around the world is billed as the world’s largest game creation and development event. Global Game Jam is considered a way to encourage creative thinking for small but innovative and experimental games of all types.

“People get together to make games, any games, as long as it has a goal or a problem that needs to be solved,” said Przemyslaw “P.J.” Moskal, a professor of the Digital Media Arts program of Canisius College, which hosted about 30 game innovators.

The annual Global Game Jam got underway late Friday afternoon as people gathered at various locations around the world to watch a short video that included advice from leading game developers. Then, the theme for the weekend challenge was announced – “What do we do now?” – and all participants at Jam sites were instructed to develop games – video, board or card.

Science Hall on the Jefferson Avenue side of the Canisius campus was the setting for brainstorming. The local challenge got underway at 7 p.m. Friday. Projects must be completed by the end of the challenge, at 7 p.m. Sunday.

David Kaplan and Pat Kesterson, both Canisius seniors, were part of a team working on a video game about a superhero who loses his girlfriend.

“He doesn’t know what to do. He kind of wanders the street not knowing what to do,” said Kaplan, explaining how the game heeds the theme.

The superhero eventually loses his mind and becomes a villain, said Kaplan, who was working on a three-dimensional model of the superhero Saturday afternoon.

“I love 3-D modeling, animation and programing, from Web programming to programming for video games,” he said.

While Kaplan concentrated on the model, Kesterson was working on animation for the superhero.

“It’s a whole process,” Kesterson said.

Meanwhile, another group was creating a virtual board game in real time – an interview-based, three-dimensional tale about a hero saving a princess, with the “what now?” theme determined by the player.

This is the third year Buffalo has participated in the challenge, said John Futscher, founder of Buffalo Game Space, which co-hosted the local event with Canisius. Buffalo Game Space is a nonprofit organization that provides support and resources for artists, musicians and programmers to collaborate on game projects.

More and more come out each year, Futscher said.

“We have a little more this year than last. It’s been growing,” he said.

Globally, last year’s event included 488 Jam sites in 72 countries. More than 4,000 games were created.

Canisius also was host Saturday to an interactive exhibition of games, including a showcase of classic video games and consoles from the collection of historian Michael Thomasson, the holder of the Guinness World Records title for having the world’s largest video game collection.

Thomasson, an adjunct professor of digital media arts at the college, has been collecting since 1982. He earned the title in 2012, and it still stands today, he said.

“I have 112 game systems,” he said.

He brought along a few of them Saturday for interactive display, including Ralph Baer’s “Brown Box” from 1966.

It was the prototype that led to the first home video game console and the precursor to the Pong video game, Thomasson said.

Also showcased was the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, which was Time Magazine’s 1993 Product of the Year. It carried a $699 price tag.

Thomasson also brought along Intellivision from 1979 and the GCE Vectrex developed 16 years later. Weighing 15 pounds, the Vectrex was the world’s first portable gaming system. It didn’t require a television set because it came with its own monitor.

But it was Virtual Boy from 1995 that got 11-year-old Giovanni Puccio excited. It was created for Nintendo and was a commercial failure, Thomasson said.

But that didn’t deter Giovanni from running straight for it.

“I’ve heard about it. It’s kind of old and kind of like new stuff, like what they have now,” said Giovanni, who came to the event with his uncle, Mark Perryman of the Town of Tonawanda, and some friends.

“I bet he can’t wait to tell all his friends he played Virtual Boy,” Perryman said.