Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Great Canadian Appathon Experience

This past weekend was the Great Canadian Appathon, a 48-hour game design and development competition.  I was on Team Harmony with some of the guys who helped out with Gram's House, our Imagine Cup game.  We'd already worked together before, so I had high hopes for the weekend.  I was not disappointed!

This was the first hackathon event I'd ever participated in.  I really enjoyed the atmosphere in the little classroom all the on-site teams worked in.  Everyone was friendly and having fun.  As great as this was, it was also very distracting in terms of writing code.  I didn't get much done Friday night as a result.  I tried to keep my headphones on all day Saturday, and on Sunday I decided to save commuting time and work from home.  Though this meant fewer distractions, I didn't get to see the final game on an actual Windows Phone 7 device. (I was at least able to try it out in the emulator.)

Something else I noticed is just how often we changed our game concept throughout the weekend.  And we weren't the only ones - it looks like most teams did that, too!  Our final concept was called Sandscape, a fluid simulation puzzle game that has you scratching trenches in the sand, and tilting the phone to get certain colours of fluid into various goal drains.  This is pretty different from the Chinese-philosophy-based tile flipping game we originally designed in preparation for the competition.

As usual, I was one of the only girls participating.  There was a female volunteer and a female artist on one team, but I was the only coder working on site (turns out a friend was also developing, but her team worked completely from home so I never saw her).  This was noticed, so the National Post journalist assigned to Carleton wrote an article about me:
Gail Carmichael is accustomed to being something of an anomaly.

It’s not because the 27-year-old computer science PhD student is wired-in to her Acer laptop at the Carleton University hub for the Great Canadian Appathon, sporting a blue “You had me at Hello World” t-shirt.

It’s because she’s the only female coder in the small classroom.
You can read the whole article online.

Overall, I'm quite happy with how the competition went.  I'm glad most of us were able to keep to a normal sleep schedule, and that we managed to submit a complete game.  No matter what happens with the judging, we have something we can be proud of.  That, in my books, is success.


Female Computer Scientist said...

Yay for you!

I was thinking about doing a hackathon recently, but feel a bit too old / lazy. :)

Gail Carmichael said...

I tend to feel the same way - so now you know it's possible despite that! And to not stay up all night. ;)

Unknown said...

I was surfing the web for details about appathon and i came across ur blog. awesome :)

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