What Are Game Jams?

We, as human beings, tend to turn anything into a competition. It is in our nature. Competing over who makes a better video game is no exception.

That is what a game jam is all about…

Game jams are competitions held between game creators. Game developers, designers, artists, and other people team up together to build a video game that revolves around a certain theme in a short period of time. The winners of the game jams are the teams that build the highest voted games.

In general, game jams are very short. The most common duration of a game jam is 48 hours. Why this exact number? Well, that’s the exact duration of a 2 days weekend.

That will be the only time when many employed game creators will have some free time to participate in a competition.

There are game jams that span across a full week though. It all depends on the organizers. One thing for sure is that most/all game jams are extremely short.

Building video games is not easy at all, and it requires a lot of time and effort. With that in mind, participants usually focus on building “prototypes” rather than full video games, and they try to keep things simple as they barely have any time to do something big.

Another major thing to note about game jams is that they are built around a “theme”. All games made within the game jam should follow the announced theme, or else they’ll probably rank low when the voting starts. 

“Chains” is an example of a game jam theme, such a theme implies that all games must have something related to chains in them.

What is the point of game jams?

Video games creators spend most of their time creating competitions and challenges for their players, so it’s only fair that they get to participate in competitions themselves…

Though “competing” against other people is just not the only purpose of a game jam.

Game jams can be extremely valuable for a lot of people for several reasons. Here are some of the benefits that you might get if you participate in one:

1- You gain experience in working with other people.

If you are a solo game developer, and you would like to know what it is like to work with other people to bring an idea to life, then game jams can help you do that.

Many game jams offer methods of communication between the participants. The goal is usually to allow them to form teams and plan together.

That said, a game jam will push you to work as a team with people you might have never met before. How cool is that?

2- You gain knowledge and experience

In general, the “theme” of the game jam is only revealed the moment the countdown starts. The theme might challenge you to work on game mechanics you have never worked on before.

This can be a great chance for you to learn how to build video games that you have never thought about building before.

3- Game jams might spark your next indie game idea

There are a number of very successful indie games that started out as a game jam entry.

The developers of these games found out that the game idea that they have come up with is too exciting, and they built upon their ideas.

4- networking with like minded people

In a game jam, you might meet recruiters who might offer you jobs, developers and artists who might offer you advice, game designers who might critique your ideas to make them better, and so on.

Keeping in touch with the game development community is generally a good practice if you are a game creator, and game jams help you do just that !

5- Build out your portfolio

The games that you make in a game jam can be a great way to showcase the type of work that you can do. Ranking high in the competition too can boost your game’s appeal to recruiters.

Where to find any upcoming game jams?

Itch.io is one of the most famous hubs for game jams.

It lists the upcoming jams in case you are interested in joining any of them. During the game jam, the competitors submit their games to the site, and after the competition ends, people will be able to play these games and vote which ones they think are the best

Tips for your next game jam

In case you decide that it is time to participate in a game jam, here are some tips for you

  • Pick a well known game jam to participate in. Try to pick game jams that have some great reputation and that have good history.
  • If you can participate in a game jam by physically going to the area where the jam will be held, then try your best to do that since it will be a great experience to meet other game creators in person instead of talking to them virtually from your home.
  • Keep the scope of your game small or else you might not even be able to finish the game on time. Do not underestimate how much time certain features can take you to finish.
  • Try to join a team of people that you have never met before. If the game jam that you are participating in allows you to connect with other participants to form a team, then I advise you that you do that instead of working with people you already know.

Summary

Game jams are competitions between game creators. whoever builds the best video game in a short period of time wins the competition.

Participating in a game jam can be a great experience for you as a game creator as it exposes you to new knowledge, people, ideas, and so on.

If you would like to read more, you can check these other articles on the blog: