How to Survive A Game Jam

It’s almost Game Jam time! This weekend thousands of creative individuals across the globe will come together to make a videogame in 48 hours.

The competition is now in its 5th year and is expected to be the biggest one yet with over 300 locations across 60 countries. Scotland is also taking part, with sites in Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh.

As sponsors of the Scottish leg we felt that we should share words of wisdom and enlightenment for all those taking part, especially for all you first time jammers:

(1) Connect

Get to know everyone. The jam is a great way to meet people and make contacts. I can’t stress how important this is especially if you don’t have a team and are looking to either (i) form a team, in which case you need to know what everyone’s skill-set is, or (ii) join another team, in which case you have to tell them why they need you. In some cases venues will organise ice-breakers/mixers to ease the process.

(2) Plan

You have 48 hours in which to make a game. Get your team together, remember balance is key, and then figure out what type of game you would like to make. Brainstorm ideas, refine these ideas up until you have something that you’re all happy to work on. Try not to dive straight in and remember to keep your game achievable! You’re not making the next GTA or COD or whatever AAA title takes your fancy. Paper prototyping is a good way to test the effectiveness of your idea. Assign someone to be the project leader. Goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) this has to be someone with good organisational skills who can keep on top of everything. Good people skills are an added bonus.

Planning is key. The more time and effort you spend planning, the better prepared you’ll be even when faced with something unforeseen, which of course won’t happen because you planned for it!

(3) Keep it Familiar

This is not a crash course in learning a new programming language or building a new game engine. Work to your strengths (and your teams) using tools and techniques that you’re all familiar with.

(4) The zZzZzZzZz’s!

Get some sleep. Sugar, caffeine and energy drinks will only go so far. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen people power through Friday night become extremely sluggish by Saturday afternoon and then crash and burn by Saturday evening at which point they are of no use to themselves or their team. Take breaks, pace yourself (bring a change of clothes and freshen up, yes deodorant is your friend) and get to the finish line in one piece.

(5) Polish

Polish, polish, polish. If you keep things simple and manageable then you’ll leave yourself time to polish your game. Don’t forget to add sound it will transform the look and feel of your game.

(6) Guidelines

Read the submission guidelines. Make sure you know what you have to submit ahead of time as it will save you time later. You may even want to assign one team member to be responsible for the submission process.

We wish everyone taking part the best of luck! For more information about what’s happening at the Scottish venues this weekend visit the Scottish Game Jam website.

Yes it’s a competition. Yes there’s a high probability your game might not work. Yes you will experience extreme moments of stress, anxiety, nervousness, tiredness. Yes you will love it. No, I’m not crazy.