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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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World’s largest student game jam returns to A&M

Photo by Rebecca Cervantes
Prizes laid out for the competitors on a table during the annunal Chillennium competition on March 1, 2024 at the Thomas G. Hildebrand Equine Complex. (Photo by Rebecca Cervantes/The Battalion)

Teams from more than 20 universities around the country competed this weekend in Chillennium, Texas A&M’s annual collegiate game jam. The competition gave aspiring video game creators two days to build a game from nothing. Most submissions, including puzzle games, ultimate fighters, work simulators and more, are downloadable to play online. Winning games were announced late Sunday night.

A team of A&M students organized the competition over the past year, including visualization junior and social media officer Alexa Zentell.

“It’s the largest student-run collegiate game jam in the world. It’s so exciting,” Zentell said. “I think it is a little bit of a niche thing just because it is gaming. We just want to spread the word and get more people to come in.”

Competitors had 48 hours — from 1 p.m. Friday to 1 p.m. Sunday —  to create a video game from scratch. This year’s theme, “Hang in There,” wasn’t announced until the game jam started, ensuring each team had the same design time.

LSU graduate student Nyako Arana worked with a team of four to create a retail-themed game, where players “hang in there” by hanging clothes and rearranging displays.

“I got the inspiration because I used to work at Ross,” Arana said. “There were times that my manager messed with my hours and that wasn’t fun, so I’m just taking all that anger out through here.”

Unlike other game jams, Chillennium had competitors all work in the same room. Teams coded in rows of tables with equipment brought from home and ate provided meals. Participants, like computer science sophomore Zhongyou Wu, took the opportunity to connect with other teams.

“They’re usually online, so you don’t get to see everybody all in one place doing it,” Wu said. “I can just walk around and see what everyone’s doing. It’s honestly really inspiring.”

Wu’s team of four built a fighting game, using as many of the 48 hours as possible.

“Last night [we] stayed up until like 4 a.m.,” Wu said.

They weren’t the only ones camped out. Visualization senior Abigail Blevins’ team worked through the night on its art museum horror game, leaving packed blankets and pillows mostly untouched.

“I got 10 minutes of laying down,” Blevins said. “Yeah, they’re there more for the illusion.”

Whenever game creators ran into issues, they held up a colorful card indicating what kind; industry professionals serving as mentors helped troubleshoot problems matching their expertise. Dallas Glowka, Class of 2017, works in SFX at Bluepoint and mentored participants this weekend.

“Games is a lot of small technical minutiae problems that if you’ve never run into them before can take hours, but are something that can take minutes if you know what you’re doing,” Glowka said.

His wife Randi Reynolds, Class of 2018, mentored at Chillennium as well. She works at Heart Machine as a technical artist. 

“I feel like trial by fire is a really good way to learn,” Reynolds said. “Having everyone in the same room is good for collaboration and bouncing ideas off. The odds that someone else had the same issue is high when there’s over 260 people in the same room.”

While Chillennium is a competition, most game creators weren’t there to win. Instead, they spent the 48 hours getting to know their fellow teams and working with professionals in every field of the video game industry. During downtime, competitors played cards, chatted with students from different colleges and — at least in Wu’s case — strummed a guitar to destress.

“It’s a chance where you can try something new without the pressure of like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is for a grade,’” Zentell said. “You can experiment. It’s meant to be fun and meant to be something where if you are passionate about gaming, or maybe art or sound creation, you get to come here and do that and be around people with similar interests and just have a great weekend.”

Winning Games at Chillennium 2024

1st PlacePlugged In

2nd PlaceThe Art of the Climb

3rd PlaceOrbital Hook

Best in OriginalityBuggin’ Out

Best in Programming1 Hit Wonder

Best in Visuals – Dimension 925

Best in SoundOvertime

Best in Game Design – The Biggest Cheese

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About the Contributor
Amy Leigh Steward
Amy Leigh Steward, Assistant Life & Arts Editor
Amy Leigh Steward is a neuroscience student from Boerne, Texas. She joined the Life & Arts desk as a writer in Fall 2023 and has been the assistant Life & Arts editor since January 2024. Outside of The Battalion, she's involved in MSC Aggie Leaders of Tomorrow, TAMIN Building Researchers and Innovators in Neuroscience and Society, and the Society of Undergraduate Biology Students. After graduation, Amy plans to pursue an MD-PhD in neuroscience and go into research, academia and scientific communication.
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