During this past weekend (2/3 – 2/5), the Universities at Shady Grove hosted a Global Game Jam. The event concluded at 5:30 pm on Sunday, Feb. 5th. The theme was “games for health”.
What is a game jam?
No, it is not a jam for bread. A game jam is an event where participants split up into groups and spend the course of the weekend to produce a finished video game. This game jam limited groups to 6 members each. Participants from all over the area were welcome to participate.
Participating in a game jam is entirely voluntary. If you DO participate, you learn things that you don’t normally learn in the classroom. You get to sharpen your skills while learning new skills. It helps expand your network and overall, it looks good on a resume.
When creating a game, whether digital or not, a certain process is followed. Though the steps taken may vary, there is a common step-by-step procedure.
- Planning – once a group has been formed, the group brainstorms ideas for a game. Since the game jam is only 3 days, a game design document isn’t created.
- Splitting tasks – when the group has decided on a game idea, the members take on tasks related to their skills. From personal experience, members split up into 3 categories – artists, programmers and UI designers.
- Production – after splitting tasks, members of the group work to complete their assigned tasks.
- Playtest – an important part of the production process is playtesting. When possible, members try to play their game. The goal is to check what works and what doesn’t, and fix any bugs that may occur (trust me – there will be bugs).
- Compiling the game – once the group has determined the game to be functional, the game is compiled together. All menus are put in, and a file called an executable (.exe) is created. This is the playable version of the final product.
By the end of the game jam, the games are complete. They are available for playtesting by the judges, friends and family. Afterwards, the winners are decided.
What can you take away?
While my team may not have won the game jam, there are several lessons I learned by participating. These lessons, shared below, will hopefully be of some use to you in the future.
- Know who you’re working with ahead of time.
- Be ready to take on additional tasks, outside of your own.
- Take 10-15 minute breaks every few hours.
- Have fun – the goal of the game jam is to have fun!