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Global Game Jam Demo Day 2019 turnout at Microsoft, New York City

Why Every Game Developer should take part in Game Jams

Game Jams level up your game creation skills. Period.

If you have been a game developer for some stretch of time, you most likely know what a “game jam” is. Game Jams are the game developer’s hack-a-thon — you are given a time constraint, and usually a thematic or mechanics constraint, and you must create a game, prototype, tool, or other misc. interactive component. Occasionally the games are rated, and winners receive a small prize. Entry to game jams is almost always free!

Learning the Ropes

For beginners, a game jam could be the very first experience designing, developing, creating art and music for a game. Learning all the tools and producing something great from it is an amazing experience to have. If you are a developer, you can work on art or music; if you are creative you can try designing levels and mechanics. Game jams are perfect opportunities to exercise other muscles in a stress-free environment.

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Restriction Breeds Creativity

Along these lines, the entire point of working on a game jam is to work outside of your comfort zone and try new things. When you receive a theme as vague as “repair”, “one button”, or “small world” you are forced to make decisions on (a) what this prompt means to you and your team and (b) how to build a compelling game around said interpretation.

Prototypes are Worth Their Weight in Gold!

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A well-worn prototype board during Global Game Jam 2020
  • Goat Simulator
  • Super Hot
  • Snake Pass

Escape your Bubble

Another great outcome of participating in game jams is from a networking perspective. It’s not every day that game designers, developers, musicians, artists, graphic designers, engineers, and project managers meet in one place to create games. If you are looking for your next team member, a local game jam is the best place to look. Now, in 2020 you are relegated to online game jams — which leads me to my final section.

Where do I Sign Up?

If I have sold you on game jams, your next question must be, “Where do I sign up?” — and thankfully game jams are still in full swing despite the 2020 pandemic. If you are looking for an aggregator of game jams, it is certainly itch.io’s page. There are dozens of jams running in parallel, so feel free to join some and get a sense for how to participate online. Most game jams have a discord community where you can get to know other game developers, form teams, and communicate.

Freelance game designer / developer. Full stack developer. Board game geek and cat tamer.

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