Game Jam: What is it, how to participate, tips

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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Do you happen to know what Game Jam is and are you interested in the gamer universe? This is a very well-known event in the world of electronic games. This event is where many acclaimed games were created by small teams of developers, in a short period of time.

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In this text you will find out everything you need to know about this type of game competition, such as its origin, its goal, its most famous types and games, and much more.

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What is Game Jam

In the world of games, many aspire to professional positions in large companies, references in the industry, such as Rockstar Games, Naughty Dog, EA, Ubisoft and many others. There are also those who dream of working on their own projects, through works in the “indie” style.

Amid so many types of goals, these professionals have one thing in common. The desire and passion for challenges. And it is at this point that many participate in the famous Game Jams.

Game Jam, in its simplest definition, is a competitive and collaborative meeting between groups of developers. Your goal is to create a game in a short period of time, which can vary between 12 to 72 hours, usually on weekends.

Through this competition, which may or may not give prizes to the winners, members of all groups seek to overcome the various challenges generated during the creation of the systems and elements of the game in question. In this way, participants develop their knowledge through the various experiences provided by this event.

Origin of the term jam

Many may wonder what the term “Jam” has to do with games and the competition in question. The answer to this question comes straight from the music universe. In fact, not only does the name come straight from this industry, but the idea of ​​competition as well.

Game Jams are directly inspired by Jam Sessions. These are meetings between musicians with the aim of performing free rehearsals, where the focus is on composition, practice and socialization. Despite being known for rehearsals, they can also represent competitions, both relaxed and more serious.

Now, the meaning of “Game Jam” and “Jam Sessions”, in Portuguese, can be defined as “Jogo Improvisado” and “Sessões de Improviso”.

What is MVP

Game Jams are often defined as MVPs, and this can cause unnecessary and simple confusion to resolve. After all, what is an MVP? This is an acronym for the term Minimum Viable Product, which translated means “Minimum Viable Product”.

This term is often used in entrepreneurship, as it represents a specific product that has only its most important functions. This directly relates to Game Jams, as with a short amount of time on hand, games should only contain the essentials of your experience.

Game Jam History

The history of this event modality started in 2002, with two game developers, named Chris Hecker and Sean Barrett. They were very curious to know how powerful an engine could be with the greatest possible sprite rendering capability. So, they decided to create one.

With the new graphics engine created, they invited some friends to form a small group in order to develop as many games as they could between March 15th and 18th. At the end of all this, with a group of 14 people, 12 games were created:

  1. Angry God Bowling;
  2. Red Rover;
  3. Firefighter;
  4. Flow;
  5. Charles Copter;
  6. Dueling Machine;
  7. Troopers;
  8. Total Age of Doomcraft & Conquer: Romero Alert;
  9. Very Serious RoboDOOM;
  10. Worship;
  11. Wrath;
  12. spotlight.

At the end of this development period, the event became known as “0th Indie Game Jam”, or simply, the first Game Jam. So, after the satisfactory results provided by this innovative experience, the IGJ (Indie Game Jam) returned to occur annually for two more times.

Indie Game Jam 1 took place between February 28 and March 3 in 2003, with 17 developers involved and 18 games created. The last edition took place between March 18 and 21 in 2004, only this time with 21 participants and 17 games completed.

How does Game Jam work?

Game Jam is one of the most interesting types of socialization and collaboration in the gaming universe. Because, despite being considered a competition, at the end of the day, there are no formal awards, but rather the sharing of experience, the creation of bonds and the emergence of promising ideas and projects.

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The operation of this type of event is simple. After preparation and registration, participants must meet at the designated headquarters and location. So, first, the theme of the edition is revealed, and then, the devs are given a certain time to assemble teams (if they are not already pre-established) and define what they will do.

After that, the competition begins. Given the start, it is of paramount importance that each participant is prepared with the appropriate and recommended equipment and resources. See what they are below:

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  • Appropriate and powerful computer/notebook to perform tasks quickly;
  • Machines with the appropriate programs and applications properly installed and updated;
  • Have your own internet, as the one offered by the place will probably be overloaded;
  • Be in possession of flash drives and external hard drives, so that file sharing is done in a practical and agile way;
  • Have headphones, of any kind, to test sounds and listen to music without disturbing others;
  • If you are under creative responsibility, don't forget your typing table, or your musical instruments;
  • Don't forget the plug adapters and extension cords.

Now, we leave for last other items of extreme necessity and importance to facilitate socializing during the short period of time of the event, which goes from utilities to supplies, and hygiene. Check out:

  • Be sure to tag all your belongings, so you don't run the risk of losing something;
  • Take papers (notebooks, post-its and others) and pens;
  • Bring dry food and bottles of water, energy drinks or coffee. Food and beverages, along with equipment, are indispensable;
  • Hygiene items such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, toilet paper and deodorant. In addition to clean clothes and a towel;
  • If you can, be sure to bring an inflatable mattress or a sleeping bag, as sleep will be important for the healthy progress of the project.

With all this, always keep in mind that this is not a competition to be pushed to its limits. Be friendly, and know that there are chances that your project will not be chosen, or even not be finished. This should not be a reason to be discouraged, because after all, what counts is the fun and the acquired experience.

What is Game Jam's goal?

The goal of a Game Jam, as we said, is to put your skills into practice by overcoming many challenges in a quick and coordinated way. In this way, each participant will evolve personally as a professional in the gaming area.

In addition to the evolution of skills development, the event works on increasing many essential virtues for many areas of life, as there you will exercise your patience, teamwork, organization, communication, planning, and much more.

Through a Game Jam, bonds are created, and the gamer community is strengthened. Like many other gaming events, this competition brings out the best parts of a player's life, as the spirit of cooperation is the foundation and why it all happens.

The most famous games created in Game Jam

Along with all this, there are still great possibilities for the emergence of ideas, or prototypes, for games with a lot of potential, which despite their simplicity, bring some flashy innovation, which makes them indie classics right away. See some of the biggest examples:

  • Surgeon Simulator;
  • Superhot;
  • Celeste;
  • Goat Simulator.

There are many others known around the internet, even more if you take into account the many and different types of audience reached, but these 4 are some of the most recognized and successful worldwide.

How to join a Game Jam

To participate in an event of this type, you must first keep in mind that some skills, both technical and personal, will be necessary to succeed in the midst of competition. See below the main skills and virtues to do well in a Game Jam:

  • Have minimal knowledge of programming, 2D and 3D animation, and video and music editing;
  • Being able to think, plan, define and act quickly;
  • Possess resistance to hours without sleep;
  • Being able to work in a team;
  • Know how to behave, stay focused and work under pressure;
  • Have creativity, both for script and for visual and functionality ideas;
  • Able to communicate calmly and clearly.

With all this checked, you must go to the official website of the Game Jam, which you want to participate, and then, the registration as a group or solo must be done. You must have the location and times of the event under your knowledge, so that no confusion will interfere with the experience.

Now, with the registration done and the event information written down, prepare yourself by getting plenty of rest and sleep before the event and eating properly. Since you will need a lot of energy and motivation to do your best for your project.

Global Game Jam

The Global Game Jam, or just GGJ, is a project developed by the International Game Developers Association (IGDA). It started in 2009, this project seeks to bring the idea of ​​Game Jam to the whole world, in just a single event held simultaneously between the various headquarters spread around the globe.

It currently has 11 events already held annually, and the next one scheduled to take place on January 29, 30 and 31, 2021, GGJ is the largest and most popular project of its kind today. By fostering a collaborative spirit, the GGJ offers an unparalleled experience for devs of all nations.

Its first edition in 2009 attracted more than 1600 participants, spread across 23 countries. By the end of the event, more than 370 games had been created. The following year, the event increased its number of participants to more than 4300, around 39 countries, with a total of 900 games developed.

See now what were the themes of each edition of the Global Game Jam:

  • 2009: “As long as we have each other, we will never be out of trouble”;
  • 2010: “Rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain” and “Disappointment”;
  • 2011: “Extinction”;
  • 2012: “An image of Ouroboros”;
  • 2013: “Sound of a beating heart”;
  • 2014: “We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are”;
  • 2015: “What will we do now?”;
  • 2016: “Ritual”;
  • 2017: “Waves”;
  • 2018: “Transmission”;
  • 2019: “What 'home' means to you”.

The last edition held, had the mark of 9.601 games completed, with its participants spread over 118 countries.

Spain Game Jam

Now, in Spain, the most well-known and influential Game Jam event is the named BGJ (Spain Game Jam), which takes place within another major Latin American gaming event, the BGS (Spain Game Show). 

Starting in 2016, and continuing annually to this day, the collaborative and competitive event normally brings together a few dozen young university students, students in the area, to create their games in a period of 48 hours.

Another great differential of this event is that at the end, the games developed are arranged for BGS visitors to test. In addition, its participants receive internships at large game development studios and a prepaid card with great values, provided by the event's sponsors.

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