Aaron Simmons, Ben Lippincott, Meg Ridl, Jessi Schmit, and Andrey Vasilyev walked into the Prairie Den on July 15th as a band of misfits. None of them had attended a Game Jam before, and only Lippincott had worked with the popular game engine Unity. They were surrounded by Game Jam alum, experienced developers, Microsoft employees and PODS Game Design instructors. But, when the results of the competition were announced at the Fargo Game Makers meetup last night, the underdogs proved victorious.

At Fargo Game Jam 2016, five teams had thirty hours, spread over the course of three days, to create a game that related to at least one of two themes: “Arctic” and “Literature.” Simmons, Lippincott, Ridl, Schmit, and Vasilyev ran with the “Literature” theme in their winning game, Viking Book Biter.

The main character of the game is a viking named Lothar who wants to get some culture– so, naturally, he goes to a library and eats some books. When he eats a book, words fall from the pages and it is up to you to put famous quotes back together. If you are successful, you get imported into the world of the book for a minigame (in the demo, you have to harpoon Moby Dick).

Kyle Weik, lead designer at Beach Interactive and co-creator of popular woodland survival game On My Own, helped organize the second annual Game Jam and had the honor of announcing the victor. But before doing so, he explained that the three-day voting period that followed the Jam was a very, very close race. Each team took the lead at some point, but in the last hours it was the detailed artwork and definite storyline of Viking Book Biter that pulled it ahead.

After the announcement was made, the winning team members met with a representative from Gravity Gaming to discuss what they would buy with their $150 prize. There was talk of new processors and second monitors. Lippincott, when asked what he would like from the store, simply said “maybe something shiny.”

But for some members of the team, the emotional reward is more valuable than any shiny new prize. For Vasilyev, this came in the form of approval from his seven- and nine-year-old nephews. For Ridl, it’s about validation.

“This is exactly what I want to do when I grow up…I know I can do this now,” she said.

Encouraged by their big win, the team has agreed to keep working on Viking Book Biter. They hope to polish the graphics, incorporate more works of literature, and eventually get it into app stores for mobile play. Lippincott, the project lead, is excited to up the difficulty.

“I can’t wait to make this game harder,” he said. “The hardest things in gaming are the things you remember.”

To Weik, the success of Viking Book Biter exemplifies everything that Game Jam is really about.

“There was something very pure about the creative experience,” he said. “You can come to Game Jam with limited to no experience and be on a winning team.”

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Katie Beedy