This post is over a month late as Global Game Jam 2015 occurred on January 23-25, but hey, at least I’m posting about it!
I’ve been approached a few times with questions regarding game jams, so I figure I’ll elaborate here. Put simply, game jams are one of the best ways of improving your skills as a game developer. It’s a bold statement I know, but I think it’s fairly accurate.
Game jams are community events that encourage game developers of all sorts to get together and develop games.
Easy enough right? Well, there is a catch. There are usually restrictions associated with the development process. There’s often a time limit, many game jams (e.g. Global Game Jam) require you to make and submit a game within a 48-hour time span (You are always welcomed to continue work on it afterwards though). Some may last months at a time (e.g. One Game A Month).
Some jams also require you to base your game around a specific topic, which is disclosed at the beginning of the event. Other jams may leave the topic completely up to the developer, but could restrict genre (e.g. Fuck This Jam). Group sizes, team roles, and other restrictions can be brought forth, it really depends on how the game jam’s organizing crew puts it together.
The key element of a game jam, in my opinion, is the time limit. It forces a deadline on developers and encourages them to build a playable product within a period of time. These hard deadlines are a great way to motivate developers to attempt completing projects. It’s very easy to fall into a slump when making games, and it’s common to see people quitting projects before fully seeing them through. Giving people hard deadlines helps this problem to an extent.
I believe that it is extremely beneficial for developers to get together with their communities and participate in game jams, these events are great for learning, personal growth and networking, so I definitely recommend attending local and global game jams if you plan to become a game developer. Heck, show up even if you don’t intend to make games, it’s a fantastic opportunity to see how your local game community operates. Many notable indie game titles started as game jam prototypes.
With that said, let’s talk about my personal experience with Global Game Jam 2015.
We had a team of around 7 people working together for the first time during the jam. With such a large group and no evident leader, we found that everything was extremely unorganized, so we’ll be preparing to make things more efficient if we work together in the future.
The event was held at the local college, so we opted to use their computers to develop a flash game using Actionscript and Flixel. No one had actually known how to develop in flash, so it was a completely fresh learning experience. As a rule, you should probably use a programming language that you’re comfortable with when trying to make a game in 48 hours. We knew it would be messy, but we were interested in what the results would be, so we did it anyways.
Much of the development was planned for the final day, and of course, a power outage happened to fall on the last day of the jam. As a result, we lost a huge chunk of our planned time, and were unable to get remotely close to what we wanted.
Either way, this is what we had by the end of the session:
It was a bit of a disaster, we weren’t able to get solid assets down, the gameplay and mechanics were nowhere to be seen, and there wasn’t even a way to end the game.
But it was a fantastic learning experience that gave us a lot of insight about working together, and a lot of knowledge about Flash. We were able to learn enough to at least get something up and running within a 48-hour time span, so it wasn’t a waste of time.