Extra Credits
Because Games Matter

Game Jam Pep Talks

Game Jam Pep Talk Archive

December 2018

Josh Delson (Events Specialist, Electronic Arts)

You’re probably finishing up your games and asking yourself, “What next?” With only a few hours left, remember to breath and take everything one step at a time. For some, the beauty of game jams are submitting one’s game, but for others it’s seeing people love the work you created. Whether this weekend is your first game jam or 20th, there are so many things that can happen after this jam!

I remember participating in The Very First Ever Extra Credits Game Jam with a team of passionate developers. Some were hobbyist developers while others students in the area. We took a leap of faith, challenged our creativity, and made a hilarious game called “OVERTIME” people adored. We asked ourselves, “What next?”

Here are 3 awesome things you can do after this weekend:

  • 1.) Take pride from your game and share it with the world! Have a friend play it! Maybe show it to your family? Regardless, this is your project and people love playing games! Who knows what cool compliments someone give it. :)

  • 2.) Polish your build! Maybe you thought of a cool game mechanic? Some of the coolest games in the industry were from game jams! Take SUPERHOT (VR game) for example! A neat idea can always be expand upon. Do you know what the largest room in the world is? The room for improvement! ;)

  • 3.) Submit it to events! There are game, art, and geeky festivals across the world that ask for games to be shown every year. Maybe take a google search of events in your area? Who knows, you might showcase at E3 or a PAX one day! <3

I hope everyone has a blast playing each other’s games afterwards. Remember that the end of this jam doesn’t mean to stop creating, but to learn from the weekend. Don’t stress about cutting aspects of your game or having to debug like crazy. Just have fun and remember you can always do more after the jam!
Can’t wait to see everyone’s great submissions!

August 2018

Joe Maslov (Artist, Extra Credits)

Of the 7 Jams I've participated in, some with a small crew, some on my own, I've only walked away with two playable products. The other sessions resulted in broken, beautiful messes that would barely compile - and when they did they would crumble under the stress of most player interactions.

That probably sounds like a bummer on its face, but I loved every session! There's such a rush you get from diving into the deep end. Working with people you've never met, seeing their minds whir, using tools you've never seen. You always resurface better equipped than when you entered. Every event I walked away from learning completely new skills, met new friends and collaborators, or built a hefty list of new tools to play with later from everyone involved. Game jams attract such a variety of skillsets, everyone has something to offer. Don't be afraid to ask questions!

I hesitate to call my experiences stress-free. It's a healthy stress. There's just enough pressure racing against the clock to keep you motivated, but ultimately you know this isn't for anyone but yourself and your improvement. After 48 hours you'll be one project richer and have an interactive toy to show for it.

I cannot wait to sift through all your projects for hours and hours... I guess I'll have to!

Belinda Zoller (Communications Director, Extra Credits)

Probably the coolest game jam I have ever done was the Train Jam. It is also probably one of the most impractical game jams somebody could do.

I flew from Seattle to Chicago, just to ride an Amtrak train for 52 hours back across the western United States to get to San Francisco, CA in time for GDC (Game Developers Conference). From an objective perspective, it was a waste of extra days spent traveling, and not being very comfortable either. I had done a long-distance Amtrak train trip before so I sort of knew what to expect, but few things feel worse than trying for hours to sleep sitting up while the noises of the train and passengers never stop. (Sleeper seats are available, if you're willing to pay 2-3x as much for the train ticket.)

The train doesn't have a lot of space on it. People shuffled slowly and patiently in the tight corridors between the dining car, the snack shop, the observation car, and their own seats next to other seatmates they may or may not be in a jamming team with.

The observation cars, with their arching windows, offered diverse vistas of the farmlands, snowy mountains, and deserts we rolled through (which was undoubtedly a metaphor for the phases you go through in game development or something, I'll get back to you on that), as well as more comfortable/flexible seating options. To be fair to everyone, folks were not allowed to "camp" in a seat for more than a few hours at a time. So people hunched over on the hard floors, butts glued to the cushioned seats that felt increasingly less and less cushioned over time.

Sometimes the train would stop, anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, so that we could all get off and stretch our legs. At some stops we were quite overdressed for the climate, and at others we were severely underdressed (I was quite taken aback by how much snow is in Colorado in March). This too, is probably a metaphor for game jamming.

The transient (or should I say "trainsient") nature of the game jam, at least for me as a first-time participant, encouraged me to think differently about game jams than I had before. As someone who is not already an artist or a coder, I have often felt "out of place" and lacked confidence as a team member in previous game jams I've done.

Here, I saw many people happily working alone, not because they knew how to do everything but because they were focusing on the one thing they were good at. I saw many others dipping their toes into 5 or more different teams (one person in particular cranked out original music tracks for at least a dozen games--that was their specialty). I ended up teaming with just one other person who knew about as much as I did about the coding side of game dev, and we worked together on a small Twine narrative and learned a lot together about design and how to make really weird code work.

And then I saw the team who had made a taste-testing game using nothing but paper, markers, and every snack available from the snack shop, and I was really jealous I hadn't thought of that first! (And it was quite yummy to play.)

Train Jam left an impression on me as one of the most positive game jams I've ever done. The people I met were welcoming and open-minded, which paid off tremendously in the diversity of games I saw and played later at the Train Jam booth at GDC. The environment of the train is not at all ideal for game jamming, and that actually sort of makes it better--the physical constraints of the space (did I mention that there's no wifi on the train?) lent themselves to increased creativity, as seen with the game that literally used Doritos chips and carrot sticks as interactive assets.

I came up with the idea to do an Extra Credits game jam probably about 14 or more months ago, but up until that point most of my game jam experiences had been just okay/alright. They were fun, but I always felt like I was missing out on the true jam experience because I didn't have the same technical experience as it felt like everyone else did. Train Jam encouraged me to be creative without judgement of my methods or my messiness or my "weird" skills that don't otherwise really fit into a game jam.

I think I have implied as much previously on social media, but just to be clear, this weekend's game jam is sort of an "alpha test" for Extra Credits to host more creative and collaborative opportunities like this in the future--aka this is definitely not the only game jam and we will definitely be doing something like this more than just once a year in the summer. This weekend will be a learning experience for me and others on the team in how to run these types of activities--I encourage you all to learn something new this weekend as well, in whatever aspect of game jamming you'd like to pursue.

I know that there are many differences between virtual game jams and an in-person experience like Train Jam, but as much as possible I want to recreate the same kind of welcoming and open-minded creative environment that I felt on that train back in March. Let's try to do that together! And please do send any feedback you have during and after the game jam.