Getting Ready for Game Jam 2018

Ashley Stapleton, Game Writer

So you’re all signed up for Game Jam (and if not, what’re you waiting for!). Now what? With Global Game Jam 2018 fast approaching, there’s no better time than now to start preparing so you can make the most of your Game Jam. Whether this will be your first year participating or you’re already a grizzled Game Jam vet, there’s plenty you can do to take full advantage of your forty-eight hours.

  1. Make a Commitment

If you’re considering it, you’re already most of the way there. From there you just need to promise yourself to see it through to the end. Whether you alone hold yourself accountable or you enlist others for support, pledge to finish a game in 48 hours. Keep the weekend free of any other obligations so you can fully commit yourself and avoid distractions. Set any other personal goals you wish to obtain along the way, and mentally prepare yourself for the task ahead.

  1. Take Care of Yourself

Adequate food and rest should be among your top priorities this weekend. While it may seem like a good idea to power through without sleep, especially with the clock ever ticking, you will pay for that later. What you gain in time, you risk losing in performance. With proper rest, you’re much more likely to develop good ideas, work efficiently, and have a good time. If you find yourself getting stuck at any point, don’t hesitate to step back and work out the kinks. Take a walk, grab a snack, whatever you need to reset and rejuvenate. Don’t forget to stay hydrated (no, energy drinks don’t count) and maintain your hygiene. At the very least pack a stick of deodorant and a tube of toothpaste—your fellow Jammers will appreciate it!

  1. Finish Your Game

You might have the perfect idea for a game with all the bells and whistles, but first and foremost you should prioritize making something you can finish. Start simple and build from there. It may help to think of your game as a prototype. Try limiting yourself to one level (or the equivalent thereof), then make that level work as well as it can. It might not be the flashiest, but you can always improve it post-Jam. Also, avoid changing gears partway through. Stay true to the game you’ve committed to, and you’ll be making the most of your time. One rule of thumb is to make a game you can finish in 24 hours. If you do get done early, then you have time to improve it.

  1. Cooperate

Your team will be your lifeline for the duration of the Game Jam, so be sure to pick a team you can work well with. A well-assembled team will play to everyone’s strengths and cover any weaknesses. That being said, do your best not to take decisions personally. You may have great ideas at your disposal, but until they’re fleshed out with other perspectives (or ruled out entirely—it can happen!), they may not be the best option. Don’t get too attached, and be ready to compromise. The results may surprise you!

The Game Design Improv is a great way to train for a jam!

  1. Know Your Skills

In what ways can you contribute? Programming? Art? QA? Maybe you’re a jack of all trades? Be honest about what you have to offer, and come prepared to communicate which tools and platforms you’re most comfortable working with. If it’s your first Game Jam or you’re still learning within your niche, don’t be afraid to say so! You’ll be met with a ton of awesome people doing their best to help you out. Remember, this is a learning experience. On the other hand, don’t undersell yourself either! Have confidence in what you can do. Your team will be there to support you.

  1. Try New Things

One major key to innovation is experimentation. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone and immerse yourself in something different. This could mean branching out to work with people you don’t know instead of your friends or past partners. You could also try challenging yourself with this year’s diversifiers. These options are designed to test your creativity and broaden your perspective from angles you may not have considered. You can choose from a variety of idea-starters, from increasing accessibility to bending narrative tropes, to help your game stand out. Whether they refine your idea or guide your way, diversifiers are a great way to hone your Game Jam experience.

  1. Envision Future Possibilities

While you want to contain your vision within the forty-eight-hour limit, there will come a time when you need to decide what to do with your Game Jam creation. Hopefully it will do more than sit there gathering dust! Keep your mind open when envisioning your game’s future. As you’re in the trenches, speculate on what lies ahead. What are your goals for this game? What do you hope to accomplish? Whatever you choose, find ways you can build on your game using what you’ve learned from Game Jam.

  1. Be Nice!

While Game Jam itself has no rules, that doesn’t mean you’re exempt from the Golden Rule. You will be representing yourself at Game Jam, for better or worse, and those around you will remember the impression you make. The floor will be open to people from all walks of life (as long as they’re over eighteen), so be professional and courteous. Most of all, do your part to create an atmosphere where everyone can feel welcome and inspired.

With these tips to get you started, you’re well on your way to enjoying a successful Game Jam. Whether you’re a professional or an enthusiast, a veteran or a rookie, there will always be more you can learn to set you closer to your goals. If at any point you feel lost or overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to reach out to your hosts—they’re there to help! Focus on having fun and building your knowledge base, and I promise you, you’ll be able to make the most of it.

You can find a list of Georgia game jam locations HERE

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