Carving out time to think creatively and have fun

For Hamilton-based Software Engineer for Animal Management Sam Hollis, creative problem solving is all about thinking differently. 


“You might not have the time or resources to do something exactly how you would like. It gets you to think about what’s actually required. Sometimes 100 per cent is needed, and other times 70 per cent is fine,” Sam explains. “I think creative problem solving also looks like finding new solutions, and trying not to limit yourself to the way things were done in the past.”

During the working week, Sam writes firmware for Gallagher’s energizers which is “essentially the software that runs inside the unit – it’s halfway between software and hardware.” Outside of work, he likes to continue testing his creative problem-solving skills. Most recently this involved taking part in the Global Game Jam over 48 hours one weekend.
As the name suggests, Global Game Jam encourages people to put their minds – and skills – to work to create a game. Held in January, this year’s event saw over 40,000 people at over 800 locations in 108 countries create over 7,600 games. With such a short time frame, the games tend to be innovative but experimental.
“This is my fourth time taking part – the first time would have been just before the Covid pandemic in 2019,” Sam says. “It’s a bit of fun, and a good challenge. Sometimes with hobby programming it can be hard to think about what to create, and something like Global Game Jam provides a bit of a framework for creativity.”

For Sam, a lot of the fun comes from the challenge – entrants only have a small amount of time to create something playable. Leading up to the challenge Sam watches tutorials to bring himself up to speed with the latest developments in game programming software since he only uses it once a year.
“Sometimes you have time to implement the ideas you come up with, and sometimes you don’t.”

The people who take part in the annual event come with all sorts of experience. From programmers, to professional gamers, and everyone in between. Sam and his partner for the challenge (who’s actually a doctor in his day-to-day life but is interested in computer science and AI!) created a game involving clowns and soldiers. The aim of the game is for the clowns to stay alive as long as possible amongst the soldiers.
“Each year Global Game Jam releases a theme and this year’s theme was Make Me Laugh,” Sam explains. “Basically we were encouraged to create something that was a bit of fun and a laugh. Over 48 hours, Sam and his teammate came up with the idea, started to realise it, and then finished a Minimum Lovable Product.
Teams are encouraged to incorporate additional challenges set out by the organisers – known as diversifiers – into their games. One diversifier was called “Mouthing Off” and encourages teams to make their own audio for games using only their mouth – think singing, beatboxing, and so on. Another diversifier – called “Lunch Special” – challenges teams to create a game that can be played with one hand (so the other hand is free to eat lunch!)
“The game we created is pretty buggy and basic, but following the challenge people often go on to iterate and improve games – and even publish them. Sometimes the initial idea from Global Game Jam inspires people to go on and create something additional.”
Getting to the end of the weekend wasn’t without some challenges to overcome, made especially challenging given the time pressure.
“There’s always really odd bugs and sometimes they’re show stopping too,” says Sam. “You’ll get part way through something and but will have to work through a fix before you can continue. Other times you’ll finish a section of development and think of something you want to add, for example a feature, but it’s often harder to add it at that point so you have to weigh up the pros and cons.”
So how does Sam fuel his creativity? He explains that watching videos on YouTube often sparks many ‘what if’ type ideas.
“Other times it’s about finding space to think. Take some time to let your mind roam every so often, ideally without the pressure of having half your thoughts occupied thinking about your to-do-list or next deadline.
“Creativity in this sense also comes from me probably playing games too much,” Sam laughs.

Cookies help us improve your website experience.
By using our website, you agree to our use of cookies.