A Quick Guide to Game Jams

If you’ve been interested in game development for almost any decent length of time you’ve probably heard of a game jam. For those that don’t know a game jam is an event where you take a short period of time to create a game. These normally last 48 hours, but I’ve seen game jams ranging from 1 hour to 2 weeks. This might sound like a very hard task, and it can be, but it’s one of the best learning tools I’ve ever come across. In this post I’m going to talk a bit about my experience with game jams and why you should participate in game jams as well.

My First Jam

My first game jam was the Global Game Jam(GGJ) in 2013. I had been developing games for about 6 months at this point and I had only made very small prototypes. Going into the GGJ I wasn’t sure what to except. I was going to a site where I didn’t know anyone and hadn’t ever experienced a game jam before. Boy was I in for a treat. By the end of the game jam I had gotten to know so many new and awesome people and had a game to show for it. From this point on I fell in love with game jams and to this day I’ve participated in probably around 10 plus game jams.

The Different Game Jams

There isn’t just one type of game jam. Some jams are quick, some are long, some are focused on one idea, some have random ideas, but all of them provide a great learning experience. Here are some of my favorite game jams:

Global Game Jam Logo

Global Game Jam is a game jam that takes place for a whole weekend once a year in late January. This is a unique game jam that is super organized and typically has hundreds of participating sites across the globe. GGJ is all about meeting new people and working with them to create fun new games based on a theme. You’ve probably seen some of the games that have been initially created during GGJ like Surgeon Simulator and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. If you’ve never participated in a game jam I highly recommend looking up a site near you on their website GlobalGameJam.org and participating. I can promise you won’t regret it.

Ludum Dare Logo

Ludum Dare is all about the games. LD takes place three times a year during a weekend. You have 48 hours to use the theme they give you to create a game from scratch. The jam is split into to categories: The Compo and The Jam. The Compo is a solo event where everything must be made from scratch in 48 hours. The Jam however is a slightly more relaxed event where you can work in teams, use some pre-made items, and you get an extra 24 hours to make your game. The coolest part about LD is playing and rating other games made during the jam and seeing how your game stacks up against them. You get great feedback from the participants and can really learn what went right and what went wrong while making your game.

Zero Hour Game Jam Twitter Logo

The 0 Hour Game Jam is a fun and novel little game where you make a game during the daylight savings time rollback in November. You only have 1 hour to create whatever you can. This is one of the hardest jams I’ve done because it’s really hard to pump something out in 1 hour at 2 in the morning. It’s difficulty but fun to see what you can push your self to create.

Itch.io Logo

Itch.io has a plethora of different game jams that people host all year long. If you ever have a free weekend or some extra time you can probably find a jam to participate in on their site. All the jams are laid out in a nice time-line so you can see what’s coming up. Along with Google this is a great way to find new and fun game jams.

Tips and Tricks

While game jams are a lot of fun they can be pretty taxing on you. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years to help you get the most out of your jam experience.

While 48 hours may make you think you can get any rest you’ll work better if you get at least a little rest

While it may be tempting to drink lots of coffee or energy drinks, water will be the thing that keeps you fresh and going strong.

One of the biggest things you’ll learn is that 48 hours is a really short time. Try and narrow down your ideas and scope so that you can actually finish something.

While it’s not the best time, game jams can be a great opportunity to push your self to learn new tools. Don’t be afraid to push your self and try to implement some new game mechanic or integrate a tool you’ve been meaning to learn.

Taking a small break here and there can really help you work more efficiently. If you are at a game jam location get up and go see what everyone else is doing once in a while. It’s great to meet new people, get inspiration from others, and possibly even help out someone else.

This one is most important for Global Game Jam but can apply to all game jams. Try to not think to much about the jam before hand and use other people to help you come up with unique and fun ideas. You might end up learning some skill you never even thought of if you plan a little less before the jam.

Go Jam

Game jams, in my opinion, are the best way to grow and develop your skills. You force yourself to create something cool in a short period of time and you might even meet a new friend. If you haven’t already you should start looking for game jams to participate in. It’s especially cool if you can find a local group to jam with! I hope I’ve inspired you and helped you understand game jams a little better now. If you have any tips or tricks you’d like to share make sure to leave a comment bellow! Thanks for reading!