Context: I've been the President of the Games Development society at the University of Lincoln Students Union for the 18/19 academic year.
So, we come to the end of this year and the end of my tenure as President of the Games Development society. Sorry, no, that isn't right:
Society of the year nominee, £1,200 charity fundraising, Games Development society!!!
Ah, suitably egotistical! Much better!
For real, though, it's been a good year for the society. It was started last year but ran only a few sessions at the start of the year to a reasonably high interest but fizzled out soon thereafter. My plan to revitalise it formed when in the pub with then Treasurer of the society. We drunkenly made plans on how it should be run and I agreed to run as President. So, I paid my £5 membership, wrote my manifesto and submitted. So did a guy called Louis and another guy called Jordan.
When myself, Jordan (VP) and Louis (Treasurer) came into our positions we had a lot of reviving to do.
In my second year I'd spent my Tuesday's with the comedy society. Our sessions started with a game or discussion followed by a Showcase for new bits and ending in a trip to the pub. It's an ace format for a community focused society and I decided that it'd be great to copy that in the context of Games Development.
With a full committee and plans for our sessions we launched ourselves into the madness of Fresher's Fayre and - to our shock - people were actually interested.
Our initial sessions ran pretty well; the room we booked was far far too small for the numbers we had (also I couldn't make it, woops). The week after - to pad for time (suggested by the former president of the Computer Science society (thanks for that, Zach ;) )) - we ran a film night. That was also quite popular and for the first time a large group of us headed to the nearest Wetherspoons.
People chatted! People drank! Friendships were made!
The week after was our first "normal" session with a short talk on preparation for an upcoming game-jam, what our plans would be for the society and the first ever showcase. I'd spent an evening working on "HackQuest", a mobile version of BrawlQuest. It didn't ever go anywhere but it was cool to be able to show it off in that session and get some feedback.
The main activity the society would run were game jams. And run them we did!
Our first game jam - RAGJam - was part of Raise & Give week, a week of fundraising throughout Student's Union societies. After confirmation of the room's booking we had just 3 weeks to plan the event and in the end it was huuuuge. In total we raised £746. 60 people attended and 19 games were developed. It was the highest any society raised during Raise & Give week earning us the Society of the Week title.
As a result I got to go up on stage at the student's club night and take some pictures. You don't actually get to keep the award, but the image has it immortalised. None if it was down to me. The success of that event was 100% because of the wonderful community that attended the jam. RAGJam will forever be the highlight of my time in the society and probably at University as a whole.
We ran two more Jams in collaboration with the Computer Science Society: Global Game Jam and CANJam, both 48 hours. We continued to focus on raising money and earned a further £500 all in all for local homeless charity Let Them Eat Cake!
I really want to emphasise here that this is not my success. We may have cultivated a platform for a great community to form but we aren't responsible for their attendance and loveliness and generosity throughout these events.
I'm confident that the society will continue to run great events without me and hope that this community will grow and raise even more money for great causes! I'm looking forward to attending them as a participant, too. Game jams are absolutely wonderful.
What didn't work
Okay, so, we had a lot of wins, but it wasn't all wins.
We ran out of things to talk about in the sessions. People - busy with their being students - didn't have the time to have something new to show off each week. So it worked sometimes, but didn't work other times. The pub was always the highlight of the night but those that didn't fancy going there afterwards soon stopped attending our sessions as there wasn't enough sustenance in the meetings to support their interest.
We acknowledged this and tried to change it - in one instance inviting Adam Linscott of Probably Rational to come in and talk about his mobile game ContainIt! and the design philosophy of mobile games. That was a great singular session but the follow up I'd planned didn't work out, either.
There was another problem: myself and the VP were third years with a huge workload and I was running a company and starting work at another. I was busy most hours of the week with little time to dedicated to planning society events. All three of us were students: our time was our most precious currency.
There was also a shift in the people that showed up: by the end of the year the attendees were completely different people to those who came to the first few, with very few exceptions. I'm not sure whether that's a win or a loss since the numbers didn't change drastically, but it's certainly a thing that happened and I can only think of 1 or 2 reasons why that was.
Other things that happened that I don't want to write loads about
- Discord was absolutely the way to go for organising and powering the community.
- Jordan's GameDevBot was a highlight of the year. I really hope he either continues to work on it or shares the code with someone else to keep it going.
- We ran a 4 hour GameJam using only Flappy Bird's assets. It was very very fun and some very very interesting things came out of it.
- Please keep tom-sightings alive.
- Many thanks for all the help the Computer Science society committee gave at gamejams. It isn't said enough. You guys did great. They were collaborative, even if in the moment we didn't want them to be.
It's been an awesome year with great people. I've got high hopes that next year will be even awesomer. The committee for next year is rock solid and the majority of our members are third years or doing masters courses. I'll try and be around for as much of it as possible, but it's no longer mine, Jordan and Louis's baby and must be handed off to other, possibly more competent people.
ALSO Jordan and Louis have been an ABSOLUTE DREAM and the best lads I know. Please don't stop being my friend now that we aren't contractually obliged to be friends.