I am finally getting to write a gaming centric article again. However, not one article but two this week! Look for a Games for the Weekend tomorrow. I have decided to give some of you on the outside a peak into an event (s,) I like to partake in within the game community. These event(s) are called game jams, in a nutshell take a bunch of people given them a topic and unleash them for a time period to see what kind of game they make. Normally the time period is 48 hours and that means you have to devote all your time to game development, sleeping rarely happens on a jam.
There are a number of jams, but I will go over the two most well know – Global Game Jam and Ludum Dare.
Global Game Jam is a yearly event happening at the end of January every year, started in 2009. This event is open to everyone, not including game programmers, artists or designers. The event starts with an introduction and then keynotes speaker(s) for the beginning of the event.
Then everyone is given the theme for the year, now the brainstorming begins! After which everyone splits up into teams and the jam begins! One of the unique things about Global Game Jam is the inclusion of analogue (board) games, starting last year. In addition, this event is truly open to anyone. My first event in 2010 included a few people who had no game making experience. They ended up researching and lending some thoughts to the games they worked on.
As for the theme for the events, 2010 was Extinction. Now 2012 was completely different, instead of a word a picture was substituted:
This meant we had to research the object to get a grasp on what the theme was. Once we figured out it was the Ouroboros we were on our way.
Ludum Dare is a similar but a digital event only. That is only those who make video games need apply. This event has been running since 2002, multiple times a year and there have been 23 events. Ludum Dare is unique in that participates can vote on the theme for the events. Ludum Dare is also a competition and jam. That is those who want can compete on the event weekend, trying to make the best-voted game versus the more relaxed jam version of the event.
Not only are there some national jams but also some local events like the Philly Game Jam. Now this event has a registration fee and is a competition. This year they are opening up the jam to analogue games for the first time in the form of a 24 hour jam, instead of the normal 48 hour version.
My personal experience, as stated before, is with the Global Game Jam. I have participated in two so far and actually have seen two of the games (LangGuini and Twisted Tails) I worked on published, with a third in development. Global Game Jam was also the impetus for me to start a venture in game development with my own studio. It was a great time to interact and meet new people who have the same passion for gaming as you do.
I would offer to anyone who has an interest in how games are made to come out to the Global Game Jam and try it out. Even though the game jams can be stressful at times, they are some of the most fun events I have ever attended. They push your creative skills to their limits and cause you to make focused decisions and scope for game design. If you ever had inkling to try out game design, or do it in your spare time you should try out these events for the fun of it. You will not be disappointed.