What is a game jam?
A game jam is a gathering of game developers for the purpose of planning, designing, and creating one or more games within a short span of time, usually ranging between 24 and 48 hours. – Wikipedia
A game jam is very challenging and literally similar to a marathon for game developers. We are given our rules before the race, usually they include “start from scratch” and the deadline, down to the exact second, that all games must be submitted (usually 24, 48, or 72 hours from the official start). Often at “blast off”, we are given a theme to follow (like Lucum Dare #29, “beneath the surface“) , or a particular genre (like “platformer”) or style of game (like “use only pixel art”). Within the short deadline we have to give it everything we have in order to design, create, test, debug, polish, rinse and repeat. If we cross the finish line with a complete, playable and fun game, then we call it a “win”. – Wendi Wheeler
A game jam is an event where developers are challenged to make a game within a specified period of time, usually 24 to 72 hours. Most game jams have some sort of theme along with some rules. Often after the jam, developers are allowed to play other developer’s entries, provide them with valuable feedback about their game, and share tips and tricks of the trade. It is a great way for developers to meet and form friendships with other developers. – Mike Wheeler
Why does Sticky Kitty Games participate in game jams?
For the fun of it! Game jams make a game out of making games. They are challenging, frustrating, exciting, exhausting, and exhilarating all at the same time. Each jam is a physical, mental, and emotional roller-coaster ride. When it is over, I feel like, “Wow, we did all that in 2 days?!?” Aside from simply being a blast, game jams help us to hone our skills, get our creative juices flowing, meet new developers, and learn new things. They are a great place for us to experiment with our new concepts and find out what people think about them. These jams and competitions help Sticky Kitty Games to become better developers all around, and fuel us to make better games for everyone! – Wendi Wheeler
It’s fun. It’s a great atmosphere to develop games and have other developers playing them. It’s also a great atmosphere to try out new game mechanics. You have a chance to get valuable feedback on your game from a developer’s perspective, and might even make a few friends along the way. It’s also a very quick way to build your skills. There’s no substitute for throwing yourself into the pit and making yourself climb out in 48 hours or less. By participating in game jams, Sticky Kitty Games will continue to build the skills that bring you excellent games that are simply fun. -Mike Wheeler
Where can I find game jams?
That depends on what kind of game jam you are seeking. Each jam has it’s own rules, but Sticky Kitty Games classifies them as either physical jams, or virtual jams.
Physical jams happen in a, well, physical place. For instance, the jam takes place Feb. 30-32, 2015 at Imaginary University in Fantasyville, Texas; USA. All the participants will travel to Fantasyville for the weekend (they are usually scheduled for a weekend), often bringing their own computers and equipment. These can get expensive sometimes due to travel, lodging, registration fees, etc. However, these types of jams are well worth it because of the environment they provide. Participants at these types of jams meet, and work together, face to face. Participants form new teams, work with new people, new concepts and ideas, and get in person feedback during the entire process. Although it is certainly not the only jam of this type, Global Game Jam is a popular example.
Virtual or Online Jams
Virtual jams happen mostly online. They also have a start time and submit deadline, however participants work from where they are. There are a few downsides to virtual jams compared to physical jams. One is that they lose the face to face aspect of physical jams. However, the online communities are fantastic, and developers still meet, converse, share ideas, give feedback and form friendships through forums, blogs, and various other means. Another disadvantage to a virtual game jam is that they usually don’t have presentations. Physical Jams often offer presentations that are highly energized and packed full of useful information, generally given by veteran game jammers and/or seasoned professionals. Virtual jams usually don’t have any presentations, however, the community (and often the site itself) will gladly point participants to all their favorite tools and tutorials. From Sticky Kitty Games experience, these communities are very friendly and helpful, and there is a wealth of information freely available on the internet. It just may take a little more time and effort for a virtual participant to find what they are looking for than it would for a physical jam participant (who can ask their questions face-to-face).
Virtual jams are much more cost effective than physical jams because they don’t involve travel. Many times there aren’t any participation fees, making them completely free. Another benefit to virtual or online jams is that it is much easier for participants to do them around their other obligations like work, school, doctors appointments, weddings, etc. Granted it does take valuable time away, as the game must be submitted by the deadline. However, it is still a lot easier to meet these obligations (and just accept a loss in jam time) from home than it is to try to meet them from hundreds (or even thousands) of miles away. There are lots of virtual jams, and a Sticky Kitty Games favorite is Ludum Dare.
If you are interested in participating in a jam, there are lots of them to be found. CompoHub has a good calendar of current and upcoming jams, and don’t forget your old pal, Google!