GameZanga - 6th Annual Arab Focused Game Jam

Dina Abou Karam, Contributor , Sep 20 2016

You might’ve not realized this while relaxing after a hard week of work, but on the weekend of September 2nd to September 4th, the sixth edition of Game Zanga, the pan-arabic game jam, took place simultaneously in over 7 countries.

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(above: the jam get together event in Jordan.)

For the uninitiated, a game jam is a game developing event where people get together both online and offline, usually in teams of programmers and artists, and scramble to make a game in a ridiculously short amount of time. The game jam’s organizers will usually announce a theme on the first day along with the deadline and everyone gets to work. 

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(above: the participants are briefed on the theme and rules in Palestine’s meet-up.)

This year, Game Zanga’s participants had little over 48 hours to work on the theme chosen by popular vote: “illusion”. Developers joined in from countries all over the MENA region, some for the first time since Game Zanga’s inception, such as Lebanon, and some returning for the sixth time. The result was a total of 83 games, all available to download and play for free on the jam’s itchi.io page.

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(above: the Zanga meet-up in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.)

Once the games were submitted, the voting phase began as participants played and rated each other’s games. MENA games industry professionals also took part in critiquing and grading the entries, helping the participants perfect their efforts should they choose to continue working on their game.

The games come in a surprising array of styles and genres, from platformers to puzzles to narrative heavy efforts, and we highly recommend you give at least the top 10 a try for yourself, as many of them are clever games that can be played through in less than 15 minutes.

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(above: the participants of the Algerian Game Zanga meet-up selfie together.)

One of the Zanga’s organizers, Danar Kayfi, was kind enough to provide us with the pictures shown here from the jam’s locations in Jordan, Palestine, KSA, Qatar, Algeria and Egypt, and it’s encouraging to see that Arab women are participating in the event and making their mark on the regional game development scene, especially in what is usually seen as a male-dominated space. 

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(above: two developers work side by side at Qatar’s meet-up.)

The scale of local events varied, some being sponsored by Arab game companies and offering prizes to the winners, while the others remained more cozy and low-key, with coffee-shop like get together atmosphere. 

There are few things more satisfying than finishing a game and watching others enjoy it, but the sheer scale of most game development efforts means that some projects never see the light of day, and others take years to complete.

Game jams like the Zanga allow developers of all levels to finish something quick and experience that satisfaction on a smaller scale. We hope the next edition results in even more experimental games, and if you’ve never participated in an event like this… It’s only a weekend, and we can’t recommend this experience enough.

See related article:

MEGAplay Game Jam Beirut - The Quest for Better Games

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