Reasons to Join a Game Jam

Reasons to Join a Game Jam

In recent years, game jams have become a popular development event to partake, regardless of your development function (artist, game developer, sound composer, etc.), and has seen a widespread around the internet and globe. However, the reasons to join one may not seem that visible in the first place, apart from any mentioned prizes for the teams who reach a certain top X and the possibility of having a fully developed game or concept after the game jam’s end. This article aims to show a collection of reasons that should be considered when joining a Game Jam.

 

What is a Game Jam?

The term “Game Jam” can be defined loosely defined as a game development event focusing on a given design constraint with relatively short timeframe [1], with evidence of game jams occurring as early as 2002 [2]. There are also academic studies on the definition of the term “Game Jam”, which define it as “an accelerated opportunistic game creation event where a game is created in a relatively short timeframe exploring given design constraint(s) and end results are shared publically” [1]. One of the most famous websites that provide information on smaller Game Jams occurring around the world is the Global Game Jam [3], founded in 2008 by Susan Gold, Gorm Lai, Ian Schreiber and Foaad Khosmood, which has history records dating since 2009. Usually, Game Jams occur in a competition environment where teams are judged based on the scoring of certain attributes of the game (such as creativity, aspects, enjoyment, etc.) and are then ranked according to the total score obtained.

 

Why Join a Game Jam?

As stated previously, some Game Jams provide rewards to the teams that achieve a certain position on the ranking of the competition. Whilst these motives may seem good to those who have confidence in their skills and are sure will achieve at least one of the prizes, it is possible to say that some may not see such an obvious reason to join the Game Jam otherwise, especially if the prizes are not what the person is expecting or wants.

Regardless of the prizes, by reviewing pop articles about the reasons of joining a Game Jam, it is possible to state beneficial factors and advantages of joining a Game Jam. As such, a collection of the best reasons to join a Game Jam will be presented below.

 

Improve your skills

Due to the short timeframe nature inherent to Game Jams, developers must act quickly in order to finish the game that they have planned out. As such, most developers will have to use their skills to their fullest to succeed and, in the process, find out information about their skills. For example, a developer may either find that their developing skills are good enough for the development tasks, boosting the confidence and morale, or the developer may also find room for improvement in certain aspects of game development, granting them an option of refining or fixing whatever issue caused the room for improvement [4].

There are people who even find new skills during Game Jams, according to a pop article written by Carolyn Van Eseltine [5]. In the example provided, the author first signed up for writing and designing at her first Game Jam, but with the twists and turns of the event, the author ended up not only doing what she originally signed up for, but also sound, art and production with the help of her team mates. This experience can be considered valuable, as it allows a person to find new development skills.

Moreover, it is also possible to state that preparation for the Game Jam itself also provides room for refinement of the developer’s skills, as stated in a pop article written by Dusty. This is due to the fact that if you know or feel you are not well prepared for the Game Jam, or that your skills could use a bit of refinement, you can improve these skills by setting the Game Jam as a goal [4].

 

Learn and refine the ability of prototyping

One of the most important goals of a Game Jam is to have a game concept ready and playable by its end. This task usually requires an important set of skills associated with project management and even startup leadership. In the majority of cases, you will want to develop a project that has the core mechanics set and that allows players to experience the main idea that you’re trying to develop, leaving no room for most of software engineering’s best practices or refinements [5]–[7].

Laurent Victorino even specifies this behavior as “embracing the power of Poo-Poo-Code™”, in which the author states that, more often than not, the code that you’ll write during a Game Jam will not be perfect nor necessarily maintainable or optimized. Instead, the code may even look spaghetti, but will demonstrate the true concept of the idea behind the game [6]. However, keep in mind that, outside of prototyping, maintainability is crucial to ensure a scalable product!

Moreover, as stated previously, this ability is quite relevant to startup entrepreneurs, since it is possible to identify a correlation between this ability and the ability to create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). As stated on The Lean Startup book[8], startups are created in a very unstable environment, where there is no such thing as “doing things without any risk involved”.

The concept of startup is extended to any type of institution or organization that wants to start a new idea and check if it will perform well as a product or service. One of the ways to increase the chances of having a successful product is to know what the clients need and, as such, perform hypothesis tests. These tests have the purpose of asserting whether or not a given assumption is true or false (i.e. people play the game because of feature X), but creating the tests for these purposes should be done in a fast manner [8].

Enters the MVP, which is a product with the most important features and that most of the time is not even completely finished and quite buggy. However, this MVP is crucial to test whether more time should be spent on implementing a certain feature or not, since it will be able to assess if the feature is relevant enough to get people into the service/product. As such, Game Jams’ short time-frame development environment allow for developers and entrepreneurs to refine the skill of creating MVPs.

 

Connect with other game developers

Game Jams’ environment allow for game developers to form connections with each other, serving as a good event for networking. During these events, you may find key components and skills about your team mates, as well as get to know them better. You may also get help and advices from experts helping with the Game Jam that you may be able to use for future titles [5].

Furthermore, you may even get into contact with developers from other companies that may be able to aid you with the development of your games or even collaborate with you, whether it’s in regards to development, marketing, publishing or promoting!

It is also possible to state that, by partaking in a Game Jam, you will get feedback on the game that you’ve made, giving further audits for refining your skills as a game developer [5].

 

Experimentation and possibility of developing games that will be released

It is possible to observe that some games developed during Game Jams are fully developed for release. But even if this isn’t the case, the game developed in the Game Jam may just show its idea well enough to obtain feedback on whether it should be a game that can be released to the market or not.

Furthermore, the Game Jam serves as an environment of creativity, where people can test and experiment with different ideas without taking too much of a risk. Having feedback of a project developed in a short time-frame allows the development team to assess what needs to be changed. Usually, as stated by Stas Korotaev, the process of submitting a game either to Steam or Kickstarter revolves around the concept of people liking the idea of the game, requiring quite a lot of time to prepare the submission [7]. Having a prototype at hand speeds this process and having the feedback from the prototype boosts the chances of people liking the game, since the developers will know how to please their audience.

Sometimes, game development companies will either host the Game Jam or partake in the Game Jam’s jury. If the game shows potential, they might even help the team to release the game into the market, even if it isn’t fully finished.

 

Conclusion

In sum, if you’re looking for an event to try out new experiences, regardless of these experiences consisting in trying out new game ideas, honing skills or testing and refining startup frameworks, Game Jams are a great place to experiment upon.

At the end of a Game Jam, you might end up surprising yourself and getting either that first place you never thought would get or a fully developed game that can be prepared for release. There’s even the possibility of ending up with a partial developed game that can be refined, developed and published by the team itself or picked up by a game development company.

So if you’ve got time, like to work with others and feel like taking on something new, partaking in a Game Jam is a great way to further enrich your experience!

 

Bibliography

[1]          K. Annakaisa, ‘Defining Game Jam’, 2015.

[2]          Indie Game Jam, ‘Indie Game Jam 0’, 2002. [Online]. Available: http://indiegamejam.com/igj0/. [Accessed: 29-Dec-2017].

[3]          Global Game Jam, ‘FAQ’, Global Game Jam®, 13-Sep-2013. [Online]. Available: https://globalgamejam.org/faq. [Accessed: 29-Dec-2017].

[4]          Dusty, ‘Why Should You Participate in Game Jams?’, GameAcademy.com, 03-Dec-2013. .

[5]          C. VanEseltine •, ‘Why Game Jams? – Sibyl Moon Games’. .

[6]          Laurent Victorino, ‘Why making great games during jams is not enough to run a company – I make games for food’. [Online]. Available: http://lvictorino.com/blog/game-jam-business.html. [Accessed: 29-Dec-2017].

[7]          Stas Korotaev, ‘Why Should You Participate in Game Jams’. [Online]. Available: https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/StasKorotaev/20151123/260043/Why_Should_You_Participate_in_Game_Jams.php. [Accessed: 29-Dec-2017].

[8]          Eric Ries, ‘The Lean Startup | The Movement That Is Transforming How New Products Are Built And Launched’, 2011. [Online]. Available: http://theleanstartup.com/. [Accessed: 29-Dec-2017].

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