Game Jams. They come in many different flavors, strawberry, blackcurrant, blueberry … , no wait, that is just regular jams. A game jam, for anyone not familiar, is where game makers come together to make a lot of small games over a few days, usually revolving around some central theme.
Earlier this month, Mark Brown, creator of the popular Youtube channel “Game Maker’s Toolkit” hosted his annual game jam, and i decided it was time for me to try one of these fancy Game Jams that i hear other game makers talking about.
Well, how did it go? it went really well, except for the fact that i ended up delivering a pretty underwhelming game, but i learned a lot, so i have that going for me which is nice.
So I’ve known about game jams for quite a while, they are everywhere, and I know that they get a lot of praise from both aspiring game developers and veterans in the field.
So what have kept me from joining one? I’d like to blame laziness, but honestly I think the real reason was fear of failure, of not begin able to produce something interesting in a limited time frame.
I don’t know what exactly changed but when i heard about the GMTK game jam, I just felt like it was time to try it out.
Figuring out what to make
So how do you start a game jam? As i mentioned earlier you usually are given a theme or sentence that the game has to follow, in this case the them was “only one”.
It was a pretty open theme, but still something that you can start generating ideas from. So I started brainstorming different game ideas, my first thoughts revolved around some kind of platformer, maybe you only had 1 jump or 1 life ? That brought to my first real idea of a platformer where you had to collect only 1 coin to win, seems simple enough if you are imagining a platformer like mario, but the fun would come from bending the rules a little by having a lot of coins in the level, but have most of them unreachable by the player in different ways. And make some seem reachable but in reality not.
Kind of a troll idea, but I thought it might get some laughs, and it would be perfect for a game jam where you aren’t expected to make a financially viable game.
Well with one idea in the bag, I was thinking of just starting right away, but I didn’t, I wanted to explore the idea a little more and see if i could figure something better out. And after some time, i came up with two more game ideas, sharing the same concept of only having 1 button.
1. A text based adventure game where you would guide someone through a world using morse code.
2. A game where you are a cashier, but your cash register would only have 1 button.
I was really drawn to the second idea, and could already imagine a lot of interesting scenarios, so i decided to go all in.
You know how the ideas in your head are usually always better than the result? well even though I was participating in one of these magical game jams, where everything is awesome, it still happened.
Don’t get me wrong I’m still really happy with my finished game, but I felt better about the idea in the beginning of the project than in the end.
I don’t really want to go into detail about the development, except that i used a stupid amount of time to work on the mediocre art, (I wish i sucked a little less at that).
So what does the result look like? You can check it out for yourself here.
The current version is however not the version i uploaded at the end of the Jam. Oh no no, I completely messed up the upload, so first of all the web version wasn’t working and second the downloadable versions aspect ratio was completely botched. Making my game pretty much unplayable, so it was no surprise that my game was completely ignored. I was very disappointed.
I ended up having to wait a week before i could re upload a working version.
Game jams are not that scary, there are no expectations except the ones you set for yourself, so it’s a great learning environment where you can experiment with crazy ideas.
Game jams are surprisingly productive, I think it’s a very common thing to think that you’ve come up with some super cool game idea that will just amaze everyone, but when you start working on it, you realize it’s either way too ambitious or that idea never really was that great.
A game jam however completely avoids this, by limiting your time and your theme.
You have to come up with the most fun idea that you can complete in 2 days.
It can be as gimmicky or silly as you want, nobody is expecting the game to be fun for me than a few minutes, if it is great, but it is not required.
It is really refreshing to have this departure from more traditional game development, where your game has to be broadly appealing, popular, financially viable, long living etc.
Even if your game sucks, you probably learnt a lot. maybe even more than making a great game would teach you.
Overall I’m very happy that i participated, I will definitely be doing other game jams in the future, maybe even collaborating with others, (would be great to at least work with someone a bit more experienced creating art )
Thanks for reading.