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7, Dec 2020 . 5 min read

Hackathons: a love letter to the event that celebrates creativity and teamwork

Hackathons: a love letter to the event that celebrates creativity and teamwork

by Rodrigo Kashiwakura

5 min read

Rodrigo Chen, Software Engineer at Wildlife, tells of the pleasures and hardships of Hackathons — and the reason why the marathon is so special.

 

Put a small group of crazy people together for four days, and tell them to work towards a bold goal: creating the best game in the world from scratch. That’s crazy, right? But that’s exactly what happens at a Wildlife Hackathon, and, believe me, it works.

Those events have been a tradition in the company. They are truly creative marathons that involve a lot of learning, project development, programming, bug fixes, business planning and, of course, countless cups of coffee. In a Hackathon, in addition to connecting with incredibly motivated people, you unlock skills that you didn’t even know you had, either by quickly developing a technical part of the game or designing a fun gameplay with a unique and charismatic character.

The four intense days of dedication to a new project allow you to get involved with all the areas required for creating a successful game. In the end, this experience makes you a better professional – and that is priceless.

As soon as I joined Wildlife in 2018, I led some Hackathons. In the course of 18 months, I was a member of the organization of eight editions –, so I can say undoubtedly that the evolution of the creative process was remarkable.

A quick example to illustrate my point: multiplayer games, which were quite rare before, are now numerous. This type of game is challenging because it needs to be optimized for performance without losing focus on the user experience. One needs to find out how many players can be virtually allocated to a server at the same time without compromising usability.

It's a fine and complex adjustment to be made in a short time. Even so, this type of game has become more common at Wildlife Hackathons, which shows how the exchange of knowledge in the company is a valuable asset.

 

MY FIRST ADVENTURES IN THE MARATHON

In one of the first editions in which I took part in, I realized that there was a serious risk of disqualification due to a problem with the game’s build. It just wouldn't work, even though we had done everything we could. That was when I decided to work through the night to finish the game.

At 5 am the next day, the game finally worked, and I was able to breathe easily. And you’re mistaken if you think a Hackathon ends when the game’s development ends. After that, we still have to deal with the documentation bureaucracy for publishing games on mobile app stores.

Just as it is common to find a bug in a new game, it's common to have documents rejected due to errors that need to be corrected. A game is only published after tons of work; then, it can finally reach people all over the world with just a simple download.

Despite the hardships (and mainly because of it), Hackathons teach us a lot.

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned over so many editions is that being technically good is not enough for a game to become a success.

If you don’t promote it to the right people, the game will not be played as expected. In theory, things are quite different, and this is very clear when you need to create a project from scratch in just four days.

 

WORKING TOGETHER TO ACCOMPLISH A SINGLE MISSION: ENTERTAINING PEOPLE

Another very important aspect that makes me love our Hackathons is how they bring people together. When you work with a new group of people, the relationships get more intense very quickly. This is why so many companies are created after Hackathons.

In addition to providing people with a complete vision of development and business, this type of event creates a strong connection even among those who had not even met before. I don’t know of any other occasion that brings people together that quickly.

But still, if you ask me “Chen, what motivates you to participate in Hackathons?”, I would answer: the opportunity for intense learning. The thirst for learning has motivated me all my life. What we learn in a Hackathon is not usually learned in a course, especially in such a short period of time.

My life goal is to learn as much as possible, whether through reading or experience. And learning is only realized when we put our knowledge into practice and share it with the team in favor of a greater objective, such as the challenge of creating a viable game product in 96 hours.

Yes, there's excitement and sense of urgency involved. But, for me, it's amazing to see a new product, created in a few days, thanks to a group of people with the same goal in mind. Not only do we learn a lot at these events, but we also use our knowledge in a very intense way.


So that's my love letter to our Wildlife's Hackathons, which is currently celebrating its 23rd edition – the third one in Work From Home mode. Cheers to the event that translates Wildlife's values and turn strangers into friends for life!

 

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