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The Culture of Game Jams [Games]


Game jams here in Europe are this weird thing. You meet up with people to develop a game in a really short time, usually something between 24 and 72 hours. Most jams have a theme that the games should be about. It’s either something very open or something very silly. I attended three game jams so far, the last one being at the Blekinge Institute of Technology in Karlshamn, Sweden. You can download the games from the jam here – there’s some quirky, funny stuff in there.

I had a really good time at every one of the jams – it’s a great way to meet people. I’m never really happy with the games I (co)-create at a game jam though and I usually don’t want to publish them. If you work in a team, it can be really hard to decide in which direction to go, especially if you work together with people you have not worked before. Even if you work alone it’s not so much about the result you are achieving but more about just creating something in a really short time.

In North America it seems to be much more common to have jams without any fixed theme or competition. Take TIGJam Winnipeg for example, where people just meet up and work on their own stuff. They get inspired by what everyone else is doing, but they stick to their visions and ideas and don’t have to compromise it by working under the restriciton of a theme or other ad-hoc team members. I’m curious if this is a cultural thing. What’s your experience?

Photo above by Roger Skogh

  • I'm the co-organizer of ArtGame weekend

    ArtGame weekend is not really a gamejam in the strict sense — in fact the format is mostly inspired by Startup weekend.

    I suppose there is not one single way to organize a creative event like a gamejam.

    But what we did with ArtGame weekend is setting up a whole environnement to first help the team building process and then support the teams all along.

    We had to mix people from 3 differents communities : Artists, Developers and Video game specialists. So we took care that the mix would produce nice and positive creative frictions :-)

    Starting with everybody pitching an idea, followed by a very social voting process for idea selection and then coaching and regular reality-checks during the weekend. Spiced up by great food available without effort and big beanbags to sleep when needed. We even helped the teams rehearse their final presentations.

    It was *a lot* of effort, for sure. And it certainly is a lot more engineered/contrived/orchestrated, as an event, than just letting people meet and work — which is great, I love barcamps, for example.

    But I think it was the right choice in our specific case.

    We ended up with 9 artgames, and every team seems willing to publish it in the near future.

    (in fact Balade and The Hill are already downloadable, Number32 is waiting Apple approval, A.R.T source code is available on Google Code… Typo Rider prototype is playable online and the mobile version should be available later this year… Générations bought itself a little time by winning the prize!)

    One thing I learned: helping people be at their creative peek and do their best is a lot of work — but it is incredibly rewarding.

    We are already planning the second ArtGame weekend, and we will add some little things to support the teams even better.

  • Julien, ArtGame Weekend sounds like a very interesting concept. Good to see that there actually are a lot of different ways you can organize a game jam.

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