What is a Game Jam?

A game jam is an event where individuals or teams come together to create video games within a short time frame, often ranging from 24 hours to a few days. The primary goals of a game jam are to spark creativity, foster collaboration, and push the limits of rapid game development. Participants usually start from scratch, and sometimes themes or specific constraints are given to guide the game creation process. Game jams can be held in-person or online, and they are popular within the game development community for encouraging innovation, networking, and skill-building. These events often conclude with showcasing the games, and sometimes judging and prizes are involved. Game jams are not just for professional developers; they attract hobbyists, students, and anyone interested in game creation.

Creating and running your own Game Jam

Creating your own game jam involves several steps, from planning to execution. Here’s a guide on how to organise it and who it’s for:

Target Audience

  • Who It’s For: Game jams are for anyone interested in game development, including programmers, artists, designers, writers, and musicians. They cater to all skill levels, from beginners to professionals.
  • What age and skillset?: With a lower skillset comes more input needed by the organiser. If the jam is to be used for getting students into game development, you will need to create a basic level with specific guidelines, with space for the Jammers to play around with. SCRATCH or UNREAL ENGINE are very good with this. Unreal Engine allows you to start with templates that include characters, allowing users to focus on GAME DESIGN instead of programming. If you are creating a game jam for a higher skillset, then you can focus more on helping the Jammers understand ‘projects’ and how to work together to create design documents and technical design documents.
  • What examples are there?: Creating a game jam is often organised by larger organisations like EPIC GAMES, on a global scale. They give the outline and review the games submitted. If you are a tutor at a school, college, or university, the game jam is either for the students on the course or attracting students in the future by inviting them – similar to open days. While at John Moores, Dr. David Tully helped organise a 48-hour game jam and it was BRUTAL with the lack of sleep, but the students loved it – like Properly loved it. It really did get the students in the brain space of BRUTE FORCE CODING. Highly recommend it… but not regularly.

Planning Phase

  1. Define Objectives: Decide what you want to achieve. Is it for learning, networking, creating portfolio pieces, or just for fun?
  2. Choose a Theme: Themes can spark creativity. You can decide on one beforehand or let participants vote.
  3. Set Rules and Constraints: Define what’s allowed or restricted, like use of pre-existing assets, team size limits, etc.
  4. Duration: Game jams typically last 24 hours to a week. Choose a timeframe that’s manageable and considerate of participants’ schedules.

Logistics

  1. Venue: For in-person events, find a suitable location. For online events, choose a platform for communication and submission (like itch.io, Discord, etc.).
  2. Equipment and Tools: Ensure participants have access to necessary equipment and software, especially for in-person events.
  3. Food and Beverages: For physical venues, arrange for meals or snacks, considering dietary restrictions.
  4. Internet Access: Crucial for both online resources and communication. This is especially critical. If Jammers do not have the Engine Installed, then the internet will be hammered – each machine will need about 100gb download speed. If your internet is slow, then you will be wasting hours… that being said, you can get the Jammers to download the files they need, do a welcome talk, and by the time the talk is over BOOSH, they are ready. Or create a local server to download the files from.

If you need support in planning or organising – reach out and ask for advice – CONTACT.

Promotion

  1. Create a Website or Landing Page: Provide information about the event, registration forms, rules, and updates.
  2. Use Social Media: Promote the event through platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
  3. Reach Out to Communities: Engage local or online communities related to game development. The games companies in Liverpool and around the UK love this type of event. Why do they love it? Well they don’t need to do interviews to see talent, they can see the talent at the event. Many companies will sponsor the event as well. Don’t forget, the games industry is worth more than the film and music industry combined.

Registration

  1. Participant Sign-Up: Set up an online registration process. Decide if it’s individual or team-based. If you are a school, college, uni, I would highly recommend creating a sign up and keep checking in with the Jammers. Often you will get a 30% fall off in attendance.
  2. Fees: Decide if your event is free or if there’s a participation fee. If you are a school, then it should be free. If you are not a school, if you are honest and say the money goes towards the place, electricity, food, drinks, networking, people are happy to pay.
  3. Parents: If attending at a school, or a game jam for younger people, we highly recommend you reach out to the parents of any sign ups. Especially if the parents are into tech. Parents want to be involved with their children, and often struggle to find common interests… plus it is an extra pair of hands.

During the Event

  1. Kick-Off Meeting: Start with an introductory session explaining the rules, theme, and schedule.
  2. Mentorship: If possible, provide mentors to help guide participants, especially useful for beginners. Many games companies would love to be involved. Reach out to them. Tech companies love to be involved also…. in fact, any company locally would love to be involved because they get to see talented people doing extra credit.
  3. Check-Ins: Regular check-ins can help maintain momentum and resolve any issues. Keeping on track with the Jammers is key. Feature creep will kill any project in a short amount of time – stick to the plan and encourage them to have fun.

Post-Jam Activities

  1. Game Submission: Have a clear process for submitting the games.
  2. Showcase and Feedback: Allow participants to showcase their games and receive feedback.
  3. PlayTime: You should encourage Jammers to play each other’s games and review each other at the end. Doing this during has always been an issue in the past because people feel that others steal their ideas…. you should encourage sharing of ideas and be realistic and state it is not an idea that is successful, but a finished project.
  4. Awards and Recognition: If you have prizes or certificates, award them during a closing ceremony.

Miscellaneous Tips

  • Accessibility: Make your event inclusive and accessible to all.
  • Networking Opportunities: Facilitate ways for participants to connect and network. With marketing, state that larger companies will be involved, even if not officially, but on a more casual point.
  • Documentation: Encourage participants to document their development process for learning and sharing.

Who Is It For?

  • Game Developers: Both amateur and professional.
  • Students: Those studying game design, programming, art, etc. Game Jams bring the ability for students to create what they want to create with a team.
  • Hobbyists: Anyone with an interest in game creation. This is great for networking, especially for hobbyists looking to get into the industry learning where they sit. Many individuals within the game industry have additional and special educational needs,  or struggle with anxiety and mental health issues, just knowing there are others who are like you will help you. The games industry is a very welcoming industry due to this – it is the games industry’s superpower and why we are building this site for resources.
  • Industry Professionals: As mentors, judges, or speakers.

Remember, the key to a successful game jam is creating an environment that’s fun, inclusive, and conducive to creativity and learning. The exact format can vary based on your resources and the participants’ needs.

Software and Game Engines of Choice

  1. Unity
    • Learning Curve: Moderate to High. Extensive documentation and community resources are available, but it has a broad range of features that can be overwhelming for beginners.
    • Ease of Use: Moderate. It has a user-friendly interface, but mastering it requires time.
    • Capabilities: High. Suitable for both 2D and 3D games, offers robust tools and is highly versatile, supporting various platforms.
    • LINK TO UNITY
  2. Unreal Engine – RECOMMENDED for experienced jammers (and beginners with lots of examples)
    • Learning Curve: High. It’s powerful but complex, particularly for beginners. It does come with some great templates for fast play – we recommend the THIRD PERSON CHARACTER template.
    • Ease of Use: Moderate. It has a visually appealing interface, but the depth of features can be daunting.
    • Capabilities: Very High. Known for its high-fidelity graphics and advanced features, ideal for 3D games.
    • LINK TO UNREAL
  3. Godot –
    • Learning Curve: Low to Moderate. More beginner-friendly, especially for those with some programming background.
    • Ease of Use: High. It has an intuitive interface and simple workflow.
    • Capabilities: Moderate to High. Great for both 2D and 3D games, though not as powerful as Unity or Unreal for complex projects.
    • LINK T GODOT
  4. GameMaker Studio 2 – RECOMMENDED for new comers
    • Learning Curve: Low. Particularly friendly for beginners, especially those focusing on 2D games.
    • Ease of Use: High. Its drag-and-drop interface makes it very accessible.
    • Capabilities: Moderate. Excellent for 2D games, but limited for 3D development.
    • LINK TO GAMEMAKER STUDIO
  5. Construct 3
    • Learning Curve: Very Low. Designed for beginners and non-programmers.
    • Ease of Use: Very High. Extremely straightforward with its drag-and-drop interface.
    • Capabilities: Low to Moderate. Ideal for simple 2D games, but limited in scope compared to more advanced engines.
    • LINK TO CONSTRUCT
  6. RPG Maker
    • Learning Curve: Very Low. Tailored for beginners, especially for creating RPGs.
    • Ease of Use: Very High. Simple and focused on specific game types (RPGs).
    • Capabilities: Low. While excellent for 2D RPGs, it’s not versatile for other genres.
    • LINK TO RPG MAKER

Summary

  • For Beginners: Construct 3, RPG Maker, and GameMaker Studio 2 are the most accessible.
  • For Intermediate Users: Godot offers a good balance of ease and capabilities.
  • For Advanced Users: Unity and Unreal Engine are ideal but require more time to learn.

The choice of engine often depends on the game jam’s theme, the participants’ skill levels, and the type of game they wish to create.

Need Help or Advice?

If you need an extra hand, or to let someone take care of the details while you take care of your project, let us help you.

Reach out to us and we will organise a conversation with you.