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Brains Eden games jam generates chain reaction

Ves Georgiev, left, with Matthew Syrett, working on a eco awareness games about global warming at Brains Eden 2019. Picture: Keith Heppell
Ves Georgiev, left, with Matthew Syrett, working on a eco awareness games about global warming at Brains Eden 2019. Picture: Keith Heppell

The 11th annual Brains Eden games jam was the most successful yet, according to original co-founder Jonathan Skuse.

“This year there were 27 teams from across Europe,” Jonathan says. “There was a waiting list: the event is really, really popular, it’s been an absolute step up – a fantastic sign as it shows the improving quality of output.”

The theme for the teams was ‘Chain Reaction’.

“It’s just a jumping-off point,” says Jonathan. “All the games are written in either Unity or Unreal. The thing I love about the weekend is that it starts out with two words on a screen then, 48 hours later, the room is full of laughter and imagery and action.”

The game that caught a lot of people’s eye was by Matthew’s Angels, which featured a world where a polar bear had to cross the sea ice to find food.

“It was a very interesting game because it’s looking at a real-world problem," says Jonathan. "We’re only starting to scratch the surface of games as an industry and art form that can address current issues.”

Brains power at Compass House. Picture: Richard Howell
Brains power at Compass House. Picture: Richard Howell

Nine awards were up for grabs as organisers welcomed 28 teams of student games developers from universities across the UK and Europe, to compete head-to-head in a 48-hour games jam. Becca Marshall, a student from Norwich University of the Arts, scooped the prestigious Jammer of the Year title, winning an Overclocker gaming chair - a sought-after prize awarded in recognition of the jammer with the best games jam spirit - due to her “can-do attitude to take on a technical role in an artist-heavy team”.

Taking place at Anglia Ruskin University last week, teams of programmers, artists, technicians and sound specialists worked throughout the 48-hours to bring their games concepts to life under the ‘chain reaction’ theme.

Dangerous Men, from South Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences (XAMK) in Finland, received the Best PC Game award and each team member received a bundle of Corsair peripherals worth more than £300 alongside an Ergotech Europe voucher. The Brains Eden judges described the team’s game as “amazing” and “a very clever puzzle game, level design was excellent”.

Toasted Works from University of Northampton was awarded Best Mobile Game. Judges said “the game had fantastic artwork and was executed well”.

The winners received a six-month subscription to Wireframe magazine and a bundle of Jagex swag. New Folder (5) of University of Northampton, won the Judges’ Choice Award, and received a bundle of games from Modus Games. The team’s game was described as having a fantastic concept that well embodied the theme, one judge commented that it “made them smile”.

Winners of the Spirit of the Jam award was No Glitch from POLE IIID, France, with each team member winning Insert Coin clothing vouchers.

Alongside the new Jammer of the Year award, this year’s competition also recognised artwork and concepting for the first time, with a Best Game Artwork and Best Game Concept awards. Winners of the awards were Bacon Pancakes from Breda University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands, and Dangerous Men from South Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences (XAMK) respectively: they received a bundle of games from Creative Assembly and tickets to the National Video Games Museum.

Brains Eden 2019: 27 teams from across Europe. Picture: Richard Howell
Brains Eden 2019: 27 teams from across Europe. Picture: Richard Howell

Industry sponsors Frontier Developments and Storylab also had dedicated award categories. The Frontier Innovation award went to Howest University College, Belgium, team Didn’t Argue Enough. Presenting the award, Frontier's chief creative officer Jonny Watts said: “In terms of judging the games, it was really hard. There was so much quality and we saw innovations in all aspects of game play, but it came down to one thing – there was a game with a tutorial that was so slick, sweet and smart and we had to award team Didn’t Argue Enough with the prize.” The team takes home the Frontier Development’s 25th anniversary collection steam key.

Storylab presented its Best Storytelling award, which was awarded to Howest University College's Dodo's Against Extinction. The new award for 2019 recognised the game which best communicates a progression, story or narrative. The judges said that the game had a wonderfully engaging story and narrative that really stood out to them.

Dr Apurba Kundu, acting dean of Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Anglia Ruskin University, said: “Anglia Ruskin University is delighted to have hosted Brains Eden annually for the last 11 years. Brains Eden is truly an international event with university and industry representatives Holland, Belgium, Finland, France and the UK attending. The games sector is really important in the economy; it is enormous and booming and Brains Eden gives students access to that.”

The judging panel at this year’s Brains Eden was comprised of senior representatives from major games development, technology and education companies, including Frontier Developments, Jagex, Gameware Europe, Supermassive Games, Creative Assembly, Codemasters, Popleaf and Sumo Digital.

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