Postmortem for the very first Extra Credits game jam!
The first Extra Credits online game jam was held from August 16-19, 2018. The jam was in “planning hell” for many months; since it was a non-urgent activity it was easy to perpetually procrastinate under the weight of other YouTube work. And then one day, Belinda decided there would be no more waiting time, and that the only way to run “the perfect game jam” would be to fail faster: start off with just running one game jam, think of it as a creative experiment, and see what happened.
And so the game jam materialized seemingly from the void with only two weeks’ notice (apologies to everyone who already had plans to do Ludum Dare and/or the GMTK jam; game jam fatigue is super real).
By not announcing the game jam in a YouTube upload, we were able to keep the participant numbers a bit more manageable without fear of overloading ourselves between Discord moderation and playing through the submitted entries. It turns out that some of our concerns--would there be a lot of obnoxious trolls? would first-time game jammers feel too intimidated and quit early? etc.--never materialized. A huge thank you to our moderators and to participants for your patience, as well as for helping us make the community welcoming and friendly!
We were able to play through 13% of the game jam entries on a livestream we hosted Monday. You can look at the list of games here as an optional sorting method to the entire jam entry catalog. We saw many interesting interpretations of the game jam's broad theme and many unique types of gameplay and atmospheres!
Some fun statistics
This jam had a 28% entry rate, with 328 entries and 1,158 registered participants! Data from itch.io’s 2017 jam review tells us that for large game jams (over 500 participants) anything over 25% is a great ratio of games-to-jammers.
For the post-jam survey we sent out, we received 336 responses. Of those responses:
About 57% solo-jammed! This is particularly common for online-based game jams and there is no shame in not having a team--sometimes it's easier for very small games to see what you can make alone.
24% had virtual teams, 14% had an entirely local team, and 5% had teams with both virtual and local jammers!
This was our very first game jam we’ve organized. For 46% of you, this was YOUR very first game jam to participate in! We’re so happy you came along for the ride. Hopefully you’ve learned a lot about the production process of finishing a game, and don’t fret too much if you didn’t finish something--game jamming itself is a skill you can get better just by doing more game jams (as always, be mindful of creative burnout!).
Interestingly, about 47% of you said you used Unity (which is not particularly known for being beginner-friendly...), followed by GameMaker (14%) and Godot (6%). A few of you said you were working in your own custom-built game engine--awesome!
About 6% of you have done 10 or more game jams--as many as 32!
We share a bunch of nerdy interests outside of games. Many of you said you were interested in a wide range of nerdy things, from zoology to philosophy to cooking/baking to language learning to football!
1 person said they jammed from Antarctica. If this was you, please send us a photograph of you, next to your game project and a real live Antarctica-located penguin, to our email inbox.
Some things we'd like to try in the future:
Host longer-running jams to increase accessibility and flexibility for participants' schedules
Create much more specific challenges, themes, and creative restrictions
Design "creative jams" based around other activities besides game development (perhaps correlating to the other educational shows we make...)
Build a self-sustaining, long-term social/online community that always remains welcoming and accessible
Ultimately the people behind Extra Credits want to do more than just make fun and interesting YouTube videos for people to watch. Sometimes the creative process can be really difficult and stressful. What keeps us producing videos is knowing that they have inspired and encouraged people to create their own things: things that are way better than what the last generation made, and things that will ultimately be better than what Extra Credits and other current content creators are making. Whether those things are video games, books, YouTube channels, political and social advocacy campaigns, classrooms that foster critical and engaged thinkers--these things make the world better.
By hosting more opportunities in the future for people to creatively collaborate, we hope that more people are enabled to make cooler things--because learning matters.
Thanks to everyone, from Discord moderators to the jammers themselves to the staff who weren’t directly involved but supported from behind-the-scenes, for making this first game jam a successful one.
~Belinda Zoller, communications director at Extra Credits