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How To Game Jam Like a Boss? – Over 15 Game Jam Tips

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Wondering what a game jam is? Think of it as a marathon for game developers. It’s a gathering – often online these days – where devs come together to create games from scratch in a set period, usually 24-72 hours. Imagine a hackathon, but for games. You’re given a theme, and then you collaborate, brainstorm, and develop a game around it. Not only is it an amazing platform to showcase your talent, but it’s also a great way to learn, network, and boost your portfolio.

It’s a common conundrum many junior gamedevs face: landing that first job without commercial experience. Participating in game jams can give you that hands-on XP you’re craving, and guess what? Many studios love to see game jam projects in portfolios because they show creativity, adaptability, and your ability to work under tight deadlines.

So, instead of fretting over lack of commercial experience…

Join a Game Jam!

But before you start jamming hard, read this blog post. We have a few tips for you. Let’s make sure that your indie game jam experience is as fruitful as possible.

1. What is Your Game Jam Goal?

Before diving headfirst into a Jam, take a breather and ask yourself: “What’s the endgame here?” (pun intended 😉). It could be:

  • Crafting a stellar project for your portfolio. Especially for you junior devs.
  • Learning a particular game development skill.
  • Networking with fellow game development enthusiasts.
  • Pushing your limits!

Having a clear goal can totally amplify your experience!

2. Borrow Wisdom from Other Jammers

Ever heard the phrase, “Smart people learn from their mistakes; geniuses learn from the mistakes of others”? Well, dive deep into those post-Game Jam dev updates. These golden nuggets offer valuable insights and learning. And hey, once your Game Jam rollercoaster ends, share your experiences too, alright?

3. Keep it Realistic

Remember, you’ve got a clock ticking! So dreaming up an MMO with intricate graphics during a Jam? Maybe not. Focus on what you can realistically complete. A finished project speaks volumes compared to a hundred ambitious, unfinished ones.

4. The Game Jam KISS Principle: Keep It Simple, Superstar!

Avoid overloading your game with intricate mechanics. Create a concise, fun game centered around a nifty mechanic. If it’s a hit, you can always expand post-Jam.

5. Rally the Troops!

Got buddies with a passion for game development? Team up! Jams are way more fun with pals. And if you’re still on the fence about the wonders of collaboration, just look up Hernan Lopez’s episode on Gamedev Insights. He shares an incredible journey about assembling a thriving indie game studio with his friends:

6. Let the Game Jam Brainstorming Begin

Sure, Game Jams usually have themes, but why wait? Prep some ideas beforehand and tweak them according to the theme.

7. Your Game Jam Toolkit

Have your tools prepped and updated before the event commences. Engine, graphic software, plugins – make sure everything’s in check!

8. Teamwork Makes the Game Jam Dream Work

If you’re collaborating, a Github repo can be a game-changer. Regular commits ensure that if someone’s ‘innovative’ change breaks everything, you’re safe.

9. Fuel Up for the Game Jam

Plot out your munchies ahead of time. Stay fueled, hydrated, and avoid those pesky grocery runs.

Check our latest game development job openings

10. Game Jam Hacks: Embrace Placeholders

Focus on the gameplay. Visuals can be polished later. Use templates or placeholders in the interim.

11. Game Jam Mantra: Make it Work!

Your code doesn’t need to look pretty; it just needs to function.

12. Prototype Early in the Game Jam

Get the basics up and running swiftly. Because, let’s face it, unforeseen issues are bound to pop up.

13. Game Jam Feedback Loop: Playtest!

Have others test your game. A fresh perspective can reveal insights you might’ve overlooked. Not convinced? Dive into the Gamedev Insights episode featuring Guy Zaidenband. He passionately breaks down the crucial role of playtests in game development. Guy’s insights and stories might just change the way you approach feedback:

14. Soundscapes Elevate Game Jams

Don’t forget the audio! Simple tunes or sound effects can drastically uplift your game’s ambiance.

15. Power Naps = Power Plays

Even amidst the Jam frenzy, remember to rest. Those short breaks can do wonders for your creativity.

16. The Game Jam Buffer

Aim to wrap things up at least an hour before the deadline. Better to be the early bird than face last-minute technical glitches.

17. Enjoy the Ride!

Most crucially, savor the experience. Meet like-minded folk, absorb new knowledge, and have a blast creating! And hey, if you’re wondering how to connect with these fellow game enthusiasts more effectively, we’re linking to our list of tips on how to network better in the gamedev industry.

Where to find the upcoming Jams?

Check Global Game Jam and itch.io, but also make sure to check what’s going on in your local gamedev communities.

And there you go! Dive into your next Jam armed with these tips and rock it!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2021 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.