Melbourne Global Game Jam Remains A Local Industry Gem

Melbourne Global Game Jam Remains A Local Industry Gem
Contributor: Alex Beaty

Games have always been a space that thrives when developers collaborate. Ideas are nurtured, and sometimes smashed together, in the development process, though there are always other factors at play. Time and money — and the associated need to generate a return on investment — can help or hinder that creativity. But what if these factors are purposefully used as challenges? That’s where game jams come in, as a means to challenge developers and push their skills in a pressure cooker-like environment.

Game jams, and the crunch question

But precisely what is a game jam? For starters, it’s not the kind of jam you spread on bread. A game jam challenges developers with a predetermined list of constraints and, sometimes, an overarching theme. The idea is to allow developers to work to their strengths in a small team and, hopefully, by the end, build a game! Others suggest game jams function better as an incubator for students and new people to the industry to get a taste of the professional game dev process. Perhaps most importantly, there’s no limit to what a game jam must be. Some run for a month and even longer. Themes are also as broad and as specific as deemed necessary by the organisers. Often there’s a cause or a theme that’s honed in on as a space that should be explored with a playable experience of some description. 

Global Game Jam began in 2009 and has since grown to be one of the biggest annual game jams in the world, with thousands of developers taking part every year. The Global Game Jam gives developers a theme and 48 hours. Teams have to juggle project scope, skill level, small team sizes, and even in some cases, little to no sleep! It’s like a crunch simulator… but fun instead of mentally and spiritually draining. There are arguments that game jams reinforce and reward crunch though, if anything, they prove that game developers are human and need rest just like everyone else — shocking, I know. Typically the goal is to strengthen those soft skills needed in the collaborative development process. Many developers have participated in game jams, sometimes even annually, as a way to learn, network, and even just for the challenge.

Just a few of the Melbourne jammers that attended this year’s event. Image: Ed Whitehead, Jaris Renner, Nat Bott, Chris Poermandya and Abby Phillips

The Melbourne chapter

The Melbourne chapter of the GGJ was begun by Giselle Rosman, who ran the event with a roster of volunteers for 12 years. Giselle is known in the local industry for her passionate work as a game event manager and Office Integration Manager at Keywords Studios. She would later tell me that the new organizer for the next game jam, June Rhodes, first attended when she was under 18 years old after bugging Giselle to be involved. “I finally caved, saying they couldn’t sleep over but could be involved during the day,” Giselle tells me.

The Melbourne site spawned while she was working at La Trobe University with the help of a kindred spirit in the security department and Paul Taylor, a games lecturer at the time. “By a lot of luck, begging and rolling with it, we ran out first jam for 70 people,” says Giselle. Since then, the event has been hosted at local games industry hotspots all across the city, allowing jammers to work with access to computers and other necessities for the development process, including a place to sleep. Like many things in the local industry, it took a village of passionate people to build the reputation of the site, but creating a space for developers to create inspired games is a reward in itself.

Giselle was even, by some twist of fate, prepared when COVID landed in Melbourne the same weekend as the 2020 GGJ, having hand sanitizer stockpiled from the year prior. Little did she know at the time that this would be one of the last in-person Melbourne games events for the better part of a year. For 2021 and 2022, the GGJ moved online, and Australian jammers were brought together in a national event for the first time. 

This year, Giselle passed the Melbourne GGJ torch on, and after 10 years at the helm of the ship, she has much to be proud of. Undoubtedly, in that time, at least 1000 jammers would’ve participated at the Melbourne event. Those jammers were able to rely on the organisers and event volunteers each year, without which it wouldn’t have been nearly as successful. Now in its 13th year, and back IRL, the Melbourne jam is still as strong as ever. June Rhodes now takes on the role of lead organiser and, by all accounts, 2023 has been a smooth return. She’s already got plans for the 2024 jam with a focus on accessibility that combines online and in-person jammers. June’s experience with the site is an incredible asset that sets the GGJ in good hands for the future. 

Now, with the dust having settled after 2023’s GGJ, we’re able to see the games created this year. The theme of this year’s jam was ‘ROOTS’ which was quite an introspective theme, encouraging jammers to explore the interpretations of the word. In the games made during the jam at the Melbourne site, it’s quite fascinating seeing how the word might have inspired the developers on each game.

A planning whiteboard from the Melbourne Global Game Jam. Image: Global Game Jam

The games

If you’d like to play any of these or see the full list of games made at the Melbourne jam you can find the files and other details here.

Muck the Mage

You are Muck! A Magical Mud Mage made of mud and dirt. You must deliver the Driplings through the roots, to make sure they get to the heart of the Magical Tree. 

How did you approach this year’s GGJ theme?

My approach to Game Jams is to start with everyone doing their own, private brainstorming. No bad ideas, just put pen to paper and write down everything that comes to mind. What was interesting about the Roots theme was that normally, I feel like you want to avoid the first and most obvious thing that comes to mind (in this case, trees, plants, etc.). But after doing a brainstorm, jotting ideas, the most compelling and engaging ideas were the ones that interacted with the idea of Plants, Roots, etc. so we went with that. – Chrispy



Jaris Rener


Nathaniel Bott

Ed Whitehead

Design and Production



Abby Phillips

Ed Whitehead


Chalk by Jhosbel


Wombaxe – The Heroes of the Burrow

Darkness has fallen upon Wombville. Evil energies have turned nature against you, and only your determination and your axes can save your hometown.

How did you approach this year’s GGJ theme?

It’s a lovely theme, there are so many different ideas that can be explored, ranging from actual tree roots to culture origins and family trees. We explored different ideas, one of the funny ones was Kangaroots – kangaroos that spawn roots whenever they jumped. But we settled eventually with a bit more practical idea of evil roots attacking a village of wombats. Since there were a couple of first-timers in our team, we wanted to keep the idea both fun and realistic – Sergey


Scott Campbell, Sergey Germogentov, Gonzalo Perez de la Ossa – Programming

Adam Robertson, Scott Campbell – Art, 3D Modelling

abbysinthe, Natasha Pearson – Music, SFX


Twisted Roots

A role-playing game where your personality is your class! “Prove thyself worthy by navigating twisted and tangled roots and ye shall inherit mine kingdom. Should’st thee stumble and fail thou shall sow its ruin.” The current Monarch of The Kingdom of Twisted Roots is dying. With no obvious heir, the Dying Monarch (DM) is in search of a worthy successor. But who has what it takes to become the Destined Monarch? Together Candidates must navigate a series of increasingly critical and difficult Royal Crises within the Kingdom, delegated to them by the DM. They must use their Traits, wit and creativity to succeed whilst completing their own Secret Goals to prove themselves the superior choice as the next Monarch. Twisted Roots is a rules-loose TableTop Role Play game that encourages improvisation and collaborative Storytelling between Players and DM, with role-play-centric mechanics. The Game has cyclical nature allowing for immediate replayability as the Destined DM becomes the new Dying Monarch, allowing the story of the Kingdom of Twisted Roots’ generations to continue, with new Candidates and a new Crisis to overcome.

How did you approach this year’s GGJ theme?

We approached the theme with a lot of Puns! It was funny when we all heard the theme and everyone had the same idea. We all thought of Roots in terms of Family, going back to your Roots but in a fantasy setting of different types of characters all wanting to become the next Monarch in a kingdom with no heir. We thought of Traits as the root of a character’s personality and over time the combination of those two traits branched out into new traits where gameplay decisions inform the growth of character development.


The Young Sprout’s Odyssey

The creation of “The Young Sprout’s Odyssey” was made possible by the AI language model developed by OpenAI, which was used to design the concept and generate much of the artwork for the game. The game features a young seedling growing and evolving through the changing seasons in a beautiful forest environment, combining elements of exploration, survival, and puzzle-solving for an engaging and atmospheric gaming experience. The original working title for the game was “Rooted,” which reflected the theme of growth and the idea of having roots. However, the decision was made to change the title to “The Young Sprout’s Odyssey” in order to better highlight the protagonist’s journey and the youthful and adventurous nature of the game. The new title effectively conveys the core elements of the game and sets the right tone for players. Note: This synopsis was generated by our AI Producer, ChatGPT.

How did you approach this year’s GGJ theme?

My original instinct was to approach it from an Aussie perspective with a bit of humour and play on the vulgar vernacular definition of “root” with a Leisure Suit Larry sort of “looking for roots” kind of thing, but I’m glad we went in another direction. – Kevin


ChatGPT by OpenAI – Producer/Designer, Programmer

MidJourney – Lead Artist

Kevin Clark – Production Assistant and Junior Artist

Peter Armstrong – Programmer and Level Designer

Sunita “Sunny” Berry – Narrative Design and Writing

Ben Houghton – Composer

Abby Phillips – Audio Design



MotherNode is a tower defence and RTS inspired game where you are a MotherNode that can create 3 different units that become part of your network. Defend against an endless wave of enemies while accruing resources to extend and grow your network and survive for as long as you can. The units you can create are: 1) Scout (5 crystals) – has a large sight range and relays enemy location information back to the MotherNode 2) Miner (20 crystals) – accrues crystals per second 3) Infantry (30 crystals) – after receiving information from the network, will move to target enemy and eliminate them Controls: – To create a unit click a parent node and drag to a target place, then select the desired unit to spawn in. – Alt+F4 to close the game

How did you approach this year’s GGJ theme?

We initially began by brainstorming all of the possible interpretations of the word “roots” followed by how these interpretations could be translated into a game concept. I pushed for interpreting roots as “networks” and “branches” in social systems. For example, in a top-down chain of command, information must be reported to leaders, then dispersed down to underlings. If one of the nodes in the tree is removed, then interesting problems and consequences start to occur. I think a game about managing the flow of information through a hierarchy and improvising when the system breaks down would be unique and interesting. Overall, I’m very interested in the game concept and think that there is a lot of potential for exploration. The way that we interpreted the concept into actual mechanics is just one of many possible approaches. I think there’s a lot more that can be done. In hindsight, it would have been much easier to pick a well-established game concept and adapt it to the theme, however, I feel that this creates results that are predictable and less experimental.


Joseph Tran – Programmer

Jason Fitzclarence – Programmer and Game Designer

Mark Tan – 2D Artist

Abby Phillips – Sound Designer and Composer


Mix ‘n’ Fleeces

Keep the family farm alive by growing, shearing and knitting sweaters from your own flock! On a sheep farm that’s been owned by the same family for generations, Sian the shepherd and Katie the knitter breed and shear their own sheep and knit custom sweaters for their clients. It’s truly the epitome of homegrown! Play as the couple to complete complex orders, track the heritage of your sheep and keep the family farm alive!

How did you approach this year’s GGJ theme?

Before the jam even started, myself and Jess were discussing potential ideas. I blurted out something about knitting, and Jess said she always wanted to make a game that involves shearing coloured sheep for wool to create colorful sweaters. When the theme was announced, we smiled because it was so easy to fit in. Plus it added another layer of lore! – Dom Parker



Clive Patrick

Jae Stuart  “jamesm”

Brian “PorridgeBee”


Dom Parker “DValkyrieMusic”


Shane Trewartha “STrewartha”


Jessica Brett “Nefily”


Katie Jones


I Am Root

A very chill game where you play as a plant just doing its best. Relax and grow at your own pace, and watch how the roots you place stay and become the foundation for newer ones. You just need your mouse to play. Right-click to move the camera and scroll the wheel to zoom.

How did you approach this year’s GGJ theme?

Initially, we had tons of ideas, one that stood out was a roguelike hack and slash where you’d raise your children, where you’d age and eventually die, so you play as your child but ended up with the concept of literally just playing as a plant. We planned lots of features that didn’t make it into the game, but that’s just the nature of a game jam. Some of the features were skill trees, weather patterns, and managing water and sunlight along with nutrients to develop.

Kevin Castillo

Kym Checa


A Freg and a Flood

Freg is a game about navigating your way through a flooded mangrove forest.


Adam Carr: Programming

Adrian Peoples: Audio & Music

Casey Dalbo: 3D Art

Ellie-May Hein: 3D Art


Beet Drop

A unique rhythm game played vertically, with one-hand, the player has four original tracks to chose from – all written at the Jam! Made in Unity, with Python library librosa for beat onset detection, haptics with FEEL plugin by MoveMountains. Music made in Ableton with native instruments, recorded samples and Analog Lab. Play with cute root vegetables to tap in time with 7/10 games first build.


Gameplay Design and Programming by David Weaver

Music and Creature Sounds by Tamara Weaver


Blooming Romance

An old lady must speak to her plants for them to grow so she can sell them to go to spaghetti dinner with her hubby


Writing by Hayley Tantau

Art by Dale Anderson

Programming by Matthew Jackson

Design by all of us 🙂


Bunny Poppers

Race against friends to solve the puzzle fastest and save your bunnies.

Gavin Platt – Animal Handler – Programming and gibbing physics

Paul Taylor – Animal Activator – Programing and Qube firmware

Kita Santucci – Animal Selector – Design and emotional support

Mathew Allen – Animal Tamer – Music


Eats roots and leaves

Eats roots and leaves is a cosy game where you play as a wombat trying to help their forest friends. Hand created watercolour artwork guides your wombat to help their echidna, crocodile and kookaburra friend. Hear what your friends need and use the hex tile environment setup to navigate creating a harmonious environment. What out for the croc though…. They like picnics and inviting people for swims with them.


Andrea Lewis – Art Lead

Avi Moore – Gameplay Design Lead

Hailey Cooperrider – UI Design Lead

Kirk Nicholls – Narrative & Voice Lead

Luis Van Slageren – Programming Lead

Ben Houghton – Sound effect/ambient sounds

Christopher Wiseman – Music


Root Man and the Root Of All Evil

A man blessed with superpowers must embark on a quest to lose them. Play as Root Man, a superhero whose very power comes from his greatest battle, The Root of All Evil. Root Man knows he must fight this evil but he also knows that by doing so his own powers will diminish. In this action platformer “reverse rogue-like” where you start with overwhelming power, you must return to your ordinary human roots.


Nicholas Goh – 3D Artist, Animator

Simon Chiu – 3D & 2D Artist, Animator

Andrew Chiu – 3D Artist, Animator

Mathew Sincoe – Music & Sound Design

David Hermanto – Programmer, Visual Effects

Chris Chua – Programmer

Logan Urlichs – In-Engine, UI


Rootin Tootin Cowboy

Bullet hell style game where a player dodges carrots and collects potato’s and beetroots. if you get hit by a carrot 3 times it’s game over


Zachary Zuluaga (Programmer)

Talia Raso (Programmer)

Thomas Scott (Prgrammer & Art Assets)


Who Axed?

Who Axed? is the 3rd Person Hack and Slash game, that puts the player in the shoes of our anti-hero, Axel. Axel is a vengeful axe that is out of a job because global warming is no longer an issue. Driven by anger, Axel now wants to destroy the world one forest at a time. Armed with puns and a sharp face, Axel takes down denizens of the forest – as well as the forest itself – to achieve global warming and the eradication of humanity.


Vasilios Moutafis

Tyson Butler-Boschma

Timothy Patullock

Scott Miller

Edward Whitehead

Ben Houghton

Make friends, make games

Any jammer will tell you that the key to success in a game jam is to pull the scope of the project in as much as possible. It’s not a competition to make the greatest game in the time provided. Use the deadline as motivation to try new things and don’t be afraid to have some fun with it. Jams are the perfect place to meet other developers and grow together. Also, save your work often, eat, drink plenty of water, and SLEEP. With all that in mind, maybe I’ll see you at GGJ 2024!

For those interested, the games will be exhibited at a ticketed industry event on March 14th giving the jammers a chance to showcase their hard work with the community.

I like to thank June Rhodes and Giselle Rosman for their generosity, and for being so open to sharing their experiences with the GGJ. I’m also humbled to have had jammers discuss their games with me, and I look forward to seeing what’s next for all of them! Shoutout to Nik Pantis as well for showing me their Game Jam Survival Guide. 

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