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Iowa game designers join Global Game Jam

Participants had 48 hours to create a brand-new board or video game.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Before you can start playing any game, you have to start with the rules. And aspiring game designers from around Iowa got together in downtown Des Moines over the weekend to make those rules for themselves, at the annual Global Game Jam.

The Global Game Jam is a game-creation event in which participants are asked to create a game that fits into an assigned theme. Game jams take place around the world, with thousands of people participating in different locations.

"Everybody gathered in here, on Friday evening, we watched the video together and learned the theme for the games we were going to be making was 'Roots," said Joe Roth, co-owner of The Dealt Hand, which helped organize the Des Moines event.

And once that theme was revealed, teams had two days to come up with the idea and rules for their game, plus make all the pieces and everything else you need to actually play it. So what does it take to do that in just 48 hours?

"We came up with a real sketchy little map, and then expanded that to a big map... then we added all the features, all the things you have to do on the map, the cards, the gameplay mechanics," said participant Sean Gannon.

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In the game that Gannon's team made, players set out to find their royal roots and become king of the map. And while they ended up with a completely playable game, the team members didn't even know each other beforehand.

"You have two days, can you and some friends or people you've never met, make a game together," Gannon said. "And I liked that appeal. It's a really creative, fun approach to doing something and problem solving."

Once the 48 hours were up, the Game Jam is over. And while there's no official winner declared among all the entrants, that means that anyone, regardless of skill level, can walk away proud of what they built.

"I don't think you have to have a game background. You don't have to have a creative background, but just something you'd like to do. I would encourage anyone to do this," Gannon said.

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