Game Jams: Getting Past the Fear
This past weekend I was running the Twitter account for the Wellington (NZ) Global Game Jam 16 account. As part of that process, I was monitoring #GGJ16 and a few other related hashtags. This allows me to start conversations with other jammers around the world, and is a fun way to see what everyone else is working on.
Shortly after kick-off, I started to notice a trend in some of the comments out there. Not from people who were participating, but from those that had decided to refrain. While I fully understand if people aren’t able to attend due to timing, I wanted to address a few of the more common reasons people listed for not participating.
#1: I’m Not a Real Game Developer
Stop it right now.
I don’t care if you’ve never shipped a title. I don’t care if you’ve never worked for a real game studio. If you make games, guess what? You’re a game developer! TA-DA! Here’s your fancy certification stating that you are, in fact, REAL:
Feel better now?
And you know what? Even really successful, professional game developers often question whether or not they really belong to the industry. (See also: Imposter syndrome piece on Polygon). The difference is that they do it anyway.
Game Jams are not a competition. They’re about getting together, making something interesting, and seeing where it takes you! Along the way you can meet new people, make new friends, learn a great new skill, brainstorm new ideas, or just plain have a blast. You absolutely do not have to be working in games professionally to participate or get value out of participating.
So whether you’re a student, a badass lady that likes making games in her free time, or a professional dev, come along! Everyone is invited, and everyone has something to offer. Not sure what you have to offer? Well then…
#2: I Don’t Know What I Can Do
Everyone has something to contribute to a game jam. Even if you’re not sure what you can do, the first step is to SHOW UP. You can figure out what your role is from there!
Not really a writer, but enjoy it anyway? Try your hand at writing game dialogue!
Always wanted to try making sound effects? BARK LIKE A FOX FOR THE FOX GAME! (actual example from the Welly crew)
Really good at keeping a project on task and planning things? PRODUCER!
You get the idea…
In short, you don’t have to be a pro at what you do in the game jam to give it a go. Depending on what concept your team decides to go for, there are a variety of ways in which you can contribute. Like, say, running the social media account for the jam.
#3: What If What I Make Sucks?
The point of participating in a game jam isn’t to make the World’s Best Game. If you’re able to pull that off in just a few days, more power to you, but it’s not really the point. Jams are just a framework for exploring a concept, brainstorming some ideas, and running with it. What comes out the other end doesn’t really matter, as long as you’ve learned something and enjoyed the ride.
Even if the concept you come up with for the jam fails to come together in time, that doesn’t mean it was a failure. It means you learned something new and can either scrap that concept, or build from it in the future with more insight. And really, I don’t think anyone is going to be the judgmental asshole you might be imagining. People are really supportive at game jams, and the idea that you can accomplish anything in the given time is really impressive.
You’re almost certainly your own worst critic. Don’t let it stop you!
So you’ve decided to jam: GO YOU!
How do you get started?
Check out some upcoming jams:
Decide on a jam that suits you, find a team (or fly solo!), and get ready to make some games!
If you have a chance, I highly recommend participating in Global Game Jam. It’s a great way to meet other devs, find a team, and get used to the concept of the game jam with a larger group. Plus, you get to be part of something that’s happening worldwide, and share in the joy of making games on a global scale!
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