Get the Most Out of a Game Jam

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Learn from an expert: Portland Indie Game Squad’s Will Lewis has organized and participated in lots of game jams, and has some wisdom to share to help you learn how to get the most out of your game jam experience.

Hey, my name is Will Lewis. I'm the lead community organizer of the Portland Indie Game Squad.

A game jam is a creative challenge where people come together and make video games. So typically over the course of 48 hours, programmers, artists, musicians, writers, and project managers are coming together to make something over the course of just a weekend.

So if you're interested in participating in a game jam, the number one thing that you need is to be able to complete a full game project, either by yourself or with a team. If you need help making a game, then there's lots of different opportunities for you to reach out to people online or meet up with them in person at local meetups to form a team. You can also talk to lots of different people who are interested in teaching you the skills that you need to make a game yourself.

When you're participating in a game jam, it's really important to remember that you're in a creative, collaborative space and that you need to be able to respect other people's boundaries. That includes working with your team to define what is a good way to helpfully accept and rejects ideas. If you do happen to have a conflict with other people at a jam, including your teammates, it's always a very positive practice to interact with the jam's organizer to make sure that conflicts get resolved. It's also important to realize that you're working on a very small, creative project, and if you need to move on, that's OK.

It's also important to keep in mind that even though you're working on a project with a very short time span, you need to keep yourself healthy. It's OK to take sleep breaks. It's a good idea to plan some physical activity, and you need to eat right. You also need to keep in mind the basics like washing your hands, not sharing food and making sure that you use deodorant if you're working in a community space.

A game jam's time frame will also have a lot to say about the size of your project. So it's really important to look back on your past experiences and see how you can make deadlines be able to complete something by the end of the challenge.

Many game jams will start by delivering a creative theme for jammers to follow. It's important to to break this down with your team to decide where your general creative direction is going to go and then make some project milestones so that you can finish something on time.

Some good milestones to follow include settling on a concept so that you and your team are thematically aligned with what you're working on, roughly finish the game so that somebody can pay through the entire thing, polish the game's look and feel, and then if you have time, and more details. If you get hung up on something, it's OK to table it and move on. Don't anticipate that you'll have time left over.

After completing your milestones and finishing your game, you now have the opportunity to share it. Websites like Itch, Game Jolt, Ludum Dare, and Global Game Jam are great ways to share your games online. You can also get together with people in person via your local games development community or by finding a new one at meetup.com.

If you're considering continuing development on your game after the jam and making a larger scale project, be mindful that the same milestones you set in place for the game jam will apply to that larger project. Now that you've successfully participated in a game jam, you're ready to make the next one that much better. Make a goal to learn a new skill, work with new people, or place in a game jam competition.

Thanks for watching. For more game developer resources, visit Intel Developer Zones Game Dev section. And for more information about the Portland Indie Game Squad, visit Pigsquad.com.Ha Ha Ha Ha.