What’s a Game Jam All About?

Game jams are all about coming together and collaborating to create prototypes of video games.

Game jams are all about coming together and collaborating to create prototypes of video games.

This weekend, I will be taking part in a game jam for the first time. To prepare for this, I’m going to take a look into the history of game jams and find out just what, exactly, they are.

So, what is a “game jam”?

The name plays off of a “jam session,” when musicians come together and improvise music as they play. Basically, when taking part in a game jam, you form a team and then that team creates a prototype of a game. The catch? Generally, game jams only give you a 24-48 hour window in which to make the prototype. Sometimes, as is the case with the game jam I’m taking part in, there’s a theme. That theme will be announced at the beginning of the jam.

The 0th Indie Game Jam was the first game jam. It was held in March of 2002, so it’s still a pretty recent concept. However, they have become increasingly popular as time has passed. Some jams have received over 2000 submissions. They’ve also expanded a bit, and some even accept board games as submissions.

The 0th Indie Game Jam

Who can take part in a game jam?

Anyone. While I am, clearly, a video game enthusiast, I’m nowhere near being a game developer or even an expert on gaming. I’m a literary studies major. I know nothing about how one goes about designing or programming video games. Thankfully, my brother is majoring in game design, and invited me to join the Student Game Developers Alliance, the organization hosting this game jam. I have no idea what to expect or how much use I’ll be, but I’m excited to find out! And if I can do this, I’m certain that anyone can.

How do I take part in a game jam?

I’m lucky enough to have one being held on-campus. However, there are also worldwide game jams, like the Global Game Jam or the Ludum Dare. Everyone is welcome to compete, regardless of experience or skill level.

I’ll be writing another article later this week, chronicling my experience, so look for that!

Image courtesy of Cara Curly.

About the author

J Nicole Miller

GameSkinny Intern-Survivor Phase Gamer, Geek, Harry Potter fangirl