Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Learning from Game Jams

Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 18, 2013

I haven’t been a very successful “game jam” developer. I’ve participated in a few, even completed a few, but I’m not a regular participant. I have lots of excuses. But mainly, with major projects in development, and a family / social / church life and responsibilities, it’s tough to carve out an entire weekend for a 48-hour game jam. But they can be really cool experiences that can teach you a lot about not only how to make a game, but about yourself.

My first discovery doing a game jam (which I didn’t complete) was that it really was the entire game development cycle up through release, miniaturized and done at high speed. It is not fundamentally different. Sure, the products are going to be simpler and rougher, but you encounter exactly the same pressures and issues which require exactly the same methodology to resolve.

Rocking the game jams is no guarantee of success with commercial game development (but then, what is?), but I do feel it is a great classroom for both beginners and veterans to improve not only their craft, but their processes.

By the same token, I feel that postmortems or “lessons learned” from Game Jams are at least 75% applicable to “full-scale” game development, and vice versa.

Scott Bromander has written a little about his own experiences and lessons learned from numerous game jams. His comments struck home for me, as a lot of his experiences – including blows to his ego, as a career software developer – really mirrored my own. It’s nice to know you aren’t alone, and it’s also nice to learn from someone else’s experiences rather than “the hard way.”

Sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is that first one – this game will hopefully not be the last game you’ll ever make. Sometimes you just have to save it for the next game. What you are making today will not ever be the be-all, end-all of game development. Polish up what you have and let it go.

Another thing I liked and want to do more of myself (I intended to do it myself this year with the one game a month thing, but real life combined with poor motivation) was his movement to personal “prototyping sessions.” Not only are these good training exercises, but they can be used to excise some personal demons. Working on a big RPG project like I am, I am constantly confronted with ideas for little games I’d like to make – or at least get started on. Taking a few hours to see just how far I can get is enlightening. Sometimes I spend most of the time just learning more about my tools, and all I get done is half a model.

But the key is – you don’t have to wait for a game jam, or conform to a game jam’s rules if you don’t want to. The game jams exist as a fun event for the community, a fun way to encourage this kind of practice, and nothing else.

Scott Bromander: Diary of a Developer – What I Have Learned from Game Jams

Filed Under: Game Development - Comments: 4 Comments to Read

  • Noumenon72 said,

    written a little about his own experiences and lessons learned from numerous game jams.

    I would have made these words an inline link even if you were going to put the full link at the bottom. I ended up Googling it.

  • Anon said,

    “but I’m not a regular participant. I have lots of excuses.”

    This sounds as if participating is a prerequisite of sorts.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Added the second link.

    And yeah, if I participated more frequently, I may have more to say on it myself. But I’m with Scott on this one – I’ve learned something every single time I’ve done it. And this is from a guy who’s been making commercial games since 1994. So even infrequent participation is a good thing.

  • Anon said,

    One simply can’t do everything, though…