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It's a hectic scene at the Noble Robot co-working space in Minneapolis, where roughly 25 indie video game developers are huddled around monitors to test out their friends' latest creations.

Each screen has a different game on it, made by one of 14 groups last month as part of Global Game Jam, an annual international event where game developers gather in their respective cities before attempting to make a game from scratch in one weekend based on a prompt.

Last week, the designers reconvened at Noble Robot to show off the games they made and to get feedback. This year's prompt was "make me laugh," and the resulting games did not disappoint.

Event organizer Mark LaCroix said initially he was skeptical that the creators' game ideas and jokes wouldn't land.

"I was pleasantly surprised and a little embarrassed to be so skeptical, because all the groups came up with amazingly clever and nuanced approaches and concepts," said LaCroix, 40..

Andre Denney, who works as a business analyst and website designer, was showing off his group's game, "Voyage Dans La Loons." The title is a play on words of the 1902 French movie, "Le Voyage dans la Lune," and has players control three loons in a rocket ship as they fly it into the moon.

Although Denney had no game programming experience, the 28-year-old contributed by creating the visuals, music and in-game text. The 48-hour time limit led to some stress, but Denney said it catalyzed his group's focus to finish in time and made him want to come back.

"When our group got together to test the game out yesterday, we all just thought, 'I haven't had a more productive two days since the game jam,'" Denney said. "It was such a kick."

Several of the developers said they enjoy that the event brings together people who envision making game design a career one day.

"This feels like a space to keep pushing in, and one where if I'm going to find more of a future in it, this event and these people and this group seems like everything that I would want to be involved in," Denney said.

Indie video game developers tested a game at the playtest event, hosted by the International Game Developers Association Twin Cities at Noble Robot in Minneapolis on Feb. 21.
Indie video game developers tested a game at the playtest event, hosted by the International Game Developers Association Twin Cities at Noble Robot in Minneapolis on Feb. 21.

LaCroix is a board member of the Twin Cities chapter of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), which hosted last Wednesday's event to show off the Global Game Jam creations. It's a volunteer-led group that aims to connect people making games, and to welcome newcomers who otherwise might feel intimidated trying to break into the industry.

LaCroix has been thrilled with the growth of the game developer community, but there's still work to be done to improve its inclusivity, given how historically white and male-driven it has been, he said. In recent years, IGDA has offered monthly events for women in games and for people of color.

"If we're going to stand up and say we represent the community, it's a moral obligation, I think, to put in extra effort to make sure that we aren't having those invisible doors that are keeping people out," LaCroix said.

Game developer Stephen McGregor, who leads the people of color get-together, said he was excited when someone encouraged him to lead the event. He said there isn't a lot of turnout for the people of color gatherings but he thinks it's important to discuss the challenges that exist due to the lack of diversity in the game developer world.

"As much as I appreciate being part of the community here, I do oftentimes feel like I'm one of two people of color who go to certain events, with the second one being my brother," said McGregor, who is Black and now works making video games full time. "Even though the event I'm running now isn't super well-attended, I can still be around other people of color and talk about the issues we face working in games."

McGregor first discovered IGDA events around nine years ago, when he and his brother were looking for assistance with the game they were working on. He said the skills and connections he got from the group helped him secure his first full-time job as a game developer.

In the game McGregor made for the game jam, "Apocalypduck," players control an army of rubber ducks that shoot laser beams and convert household objects into additional ducks as they escape their bathtub and explore the surrounding house.

Some other games highlighted last week included a cooperative original Nintendo console game, where two clowns-in-training compete to make a giant clown face smile by throwing pies at each other or setting up banana peels to slip on. The players then break the clown's teeth with a hammer before walking inside to find a message that reads: "Sorry, but your clown diploma is in another stomach."

Another, titled "Stand-Up Battle" has two stand-up comedians duking it out in a turn-based combat game. The twist is they fight by using different kinds of joke abilities, such as "dad joke," "punchline" and "quip." Most of these games can be found online to play for free at Dates for IGDA events are online at