Gaming, exploration, and the community

The annual Global Game Jam returns to Green Bay

By Rachel Sankey

Participants working on their games in one of the past Green Bay Global Game Jam events. The Global Game Jam is hosted every year in 98 countries. Photo courtesy of Ben Geisler

Our city is known for a lot of things: green and gold, the botanical gardens and, one not as known, gaming. The popular tabletop role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons, for example, was created in Lake Geneva, WI.

The Greater Green Bay area houses more gaming communities and design businesses than one may think–Gnome Games (2160 S Ridge Rd), Headway (520 N Broadway), Balance Studios (935 Lombardi Ave) and Bay Tek Entertainment (1077 Glenbrook Dr). Besides these businesses, each year, the Global Game Jam is hosted in 98 countries across the world. The mission of the annual Global Game Jam is, “to empower individuals worldwide to learn, experiment, and create together through the medium of games.” 

This will be the fourth time a Global Game Jam site is hosted in Green Bay. Ben Geisler and Kris Purzycki talked with Green Bay City Pages about this year’s Jam. 

“Each year, those who participate in a jam site (such as the one in Green Bay) will meet together on the first night, where opening introductions and speeches introduce the players to the game,” Geisler said. “The theme for that year is then released. From there, people brainstorm ideas and pitch them to the rest of the group. Members have the option to work with a group or alone, though many choose to work together. After the pitches, everyone is set free for the next 48 hours to work on their games. Members come back together near the end of the jam to present what they’ve created. This year, the jam is being hosted at the Urban Hub (340 N Broadway), which will be open for the entirety of the jam so members can come and go as they please.” 

Though most members who participate in the Game Jam create a game in some digital format, Geisler and Purzycki said people are more than welcome to create a tabletop or board game. They wouldn’t mind seeing more people trying their hand at them.

Geisler started in the games industry in 2000 after being hired out of UW Madison with an emphasis in AI. Since then, he has worked on Hulk Ultimate Destruction, formed Frozen Codebase, worked at Human Head Studios in Madison and more. He also went on to earn his PhD in Computer Science at Nova Southeastern University and has taught at ITT Tech and St. Norberts. Geisler currently works for Lost Boys Interactive as the Lead Engineer as well as teaching game design at UW-Green Bay.

Purzycki is an Associate Professor with the Humanities and English departments at UW-Green Bay. He received his Master’s in Rhetoric and Composition from Old Dominion University in Virginia. Purzycki said his background in gaming lands more within graphic design, unter interface design, graphic design and more. 

“I consider myself more of a tinkerer,” Purzycki said. “Game design kind of falls into that because, I feel like that’s the next iteration of all this. That’s where we’re heading. We demand interactivity and participation in what we do.”

The gaming scene, though small, as Geisler said, still exists. There are those who work in the game industry at places such as Headway and BayTek. Geisler also said that with the increase in knowledge and popularity of things such as VR and the Metaverse, the gaming scene in Green Bay will most likely continue to grow. 

“However you feel about the Metaverse, the truth is there are going to be people investing in it, so I think it’s going to be growing,” Geisler said.

Purzycki also said that Green Bay is home to many gaming stores, and good ones at that. 

Other professors at UW-Green Bay are also a part of this year’s Global Game Jam, such as Dr. Julialicia Case and Professor Chris Williams who are both part of the English department and are Co-Directors of the UWGB Center for Games and Interactive Media.

“Now that the English side is doing (Global Game Jam), it really makes sense because that helps motivate people on the information science-side to do things and hopefully we’ll eventually get people in art involved,” Geisler said. “You need all disciplines. You need every one of us in order to make a compelling game.”

Green Bay starts their Global Game Jam at the Urban Hub on Friday, Jan. 21 at 5 pm. Masks and vaccinations are not required, though strongly encouraged for those participating, in order to have a safe environment and in consideration of other jammers. 

Rachel Sankey is an Arts and Entertainment Reporter for Green Bay City Pages. She can be reached via email at [email protected]

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