Why Game Jams matter for developers and gamers

In every creative field that is dictated with corporate influence, there comes a point when the best creative ideas become saturated. In the case of video games, we see ideas that become popular, that are then imitated and repackaged by a number of publishers. Most
recently, it has happened with open-world games and multiplayer shooters.


But nothing cleanses oversaturation like a wave of creativity. Thanks to digital distribution platforms, we’re seeing Indies produce new and unorthodox games all the time. Although these indie developers may be lacking in funding most of the time, it’s important to
encourage them to keep creating so that we’re able to enjoy original ideas. This is why game jams have become important.

What is a Game Jam?

Game jams are inspired by the tradition of musicians getting together and playing or producing music together without any pre-preparation or any intention for the outcome. All commercial politics are left at the door, and it’s simply a means for new ideas to be discovered in an authentic way. With game jams, there’s usually a set time limit to create a game, with the most typical being 48 hours.

Game jams have been made more popular now with open source development tools such as UNITY being available to programmers. Skill-sets that are usually found at game jams range from programmers to designers, animators and sound engineers. Sometimes people even switch roles to try new hats, so you may see a programmer taking the lead as an animator on a project.

Many game jams take place in a physical space, but there are even online based game jams
where the participants collaborate via various communication channels such as Slack.

Why the Industry Needs Game Jams

As with many corporate industries, there are politics that can interfere with creativity. There’s also the fact that sometimes diversity and integrity is left at the door. Game jams have the potential to eliminate many of these issues by allowing people from all walks of life to get
together and create.


These events allow for new perspectives and solutions to be brought forth to the table. With a smaller sized team of creatives than most successful publishers, it means that each individual voice in the team has influence; as opposed to executives making the real decisions.

A few years back an international game developer’s association survey revealed that 79% of respondents identified as Caucasian, with 76% of them being male. It’s important to remember that the gaming industry is still a new and evolving industry when compared with
other forms of entertainment and media. To see it grow, we need to invite creatives of all races and genders to get involved.


Recently, some well publicised publishing houses have even been sponsoring their own game jams. This paves the way for new talents to be recognised by industry leaders.


Most of the time, the games that are created during game jams are largely unplayable. But the concept has been mapped out and executed to a degree, so the opportunity is always
there to follow up the idea and make something of it. Also, the knowledge that people
accumulate after participating in a game jam is priceless.


Game jams are mainly considered as a fun challenge. When there’s little pressure involved in the outcome, creativity will always flow naturally, and from that creativity, real ideas are born. I truly believe that more game publishers should encourage in-house game jams to
discover new possibilities.


Why Game Jams matter for gamers

There are a varying number of gamers in the world. Many gamers are happy to stick with well-known titles and sports games that are released on a yearly cycle. Gamers that see their hobby as a form of art on the other hand, may vary their tastes often.


Gamers require more variety in their choice of games to offset oversaturation in the industry. There have been some hit indie titles that were first put together at game jams. These include Super Meat Boy, Chameleon Run, Surgeon Simulator and many more. These are all games with large fan bases and it proves that true gems can be come from these game jams.


Conclusion

Not only are game jams healthy for the gaming industry, but they are also much needed. They encourage talented people who have thought about making games to give it a try in a fun environment with like-minded people. These people may then go on to be employed
within the gaming industry and add value to already established studios.

Game jams help with lack of diversity and saturation in the industry. With platforms like PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, Steam and Nintendo Switch opening up to indie developers, it allows gamers to have more choice and say about the games they want to enjoy.

Gary


References:

Game Jam success stories  Gamespark.com
How to Get the Most Out of a Game Jam: Gamesdevelopment.tutsplus.com
Why Game James Matter Remeshed.com