(Independent Composer/Sound Designer - Holds World Record for Soundtracking 30 Games at a Single Game Jam)
You're doing a game jam! That's so cool! Fun Fact: I actually used game jams as a path to develop my career and I cannot stress enough how important game jams can be! It's literally how I met so many friends (even romantic partners <3), found work, and saw incredible parts of the world! Hopefully, you’re feeling excited to start jamming : ) Well, I have tons of tips, especially if you haven't done this before, so let me just get to it!
Scope down. You’re going to hear the theme and you’re going to have tons of ideas. Your first idea? Ditch it. Your second idea? Probably ditch that too. If it’s the first thing you thought of, then ten other groups here had the exact same idea. If you have a wild idea that sounds awesome, that’s great. But I promise you that you will not have time to make it happen this weekend, so distill it down to its most basic form and then make the game about that mechanic as polished as possible. OR IGNORE EVERYTHING I SAY AND JUST LEARN FROM YOUR SPECTACULAR DISASTER <3 <3 <3
It’s ok if you don’t finish your game or your game doesn’t quite reflect the vision you had. You are doing this to meet people, practice your skill, be creative, have fun, and try out your ideas. Some of you might be thinking ”But some jam games become successful!” True! But the reality is that these stories are exceptions. Also, they had a week to make, say, SuperHot and most of you probably heard about it after they continued to work on it. But the important point is simply that you shouldn’t stress about the game that results from this jam. Connecting with your teammates or other jammers is much more important. When you make new friends, you feel like you won the jam every single time.
Food and sleep are so important. You might feel pressured to crunch and stay up late, but I guarantee that you will work worse and be less efficient if you don’t take care of yourself. If you’re a coder, you’re not just practicing coding at this jam. You’re practicing your work ethic. Prove that you can live off being a coder because you’re going to need plenty of food and sleep if you want to turn this into a career that sustains your life and makes you happy. Another thing people don’t realize that they’re practicing at game jams is communication (and you will be your worst self without food/sleep D: ). Practice communicating well with your teammates. That makes an efficient team. That’s the kind of person studios want to hire.
DO NOT BE THE PEOPLE THAT COME TO THE AUDIO PERSON IN THE LAST HOURS OF THE JAM DESPERATE FOR MUSIC. FIND AN AUDIO PERSON NOW. AND ACTUALLY PUT THEIR ASSETS IN THE GAME OR I WILL CAST LVL 100 CHAIN LIGHTNING ON YOUR ENTIRE TEAM. I find that people tend to not understand each other’s roles, but trust me that it is better (ESPECIALLY on big projects) when you don’t get the audio person at the end and ask them to just fill in the blanks with music and sound effects. Maybe consider doing a role that you don't normally do! The experience of being in the other person's shoes is invaluable. You're going to learn so much!
Jamming is so much FUN!!! But it’s not going to be if you’re stressing about it. Step away from your computer, get a drink, and go ask your friends how their games are coming along. Or just get some sun and fresh air and come back to your game. Sure, plenty of people stress and are happy with what they made in the end, but... why would you ever want to do this to yourself? We can't say we want to see crunch culture go and then literally practice it at jams (and if you think otherwise, then perhaps you're realizing how hard it actually is to shift away from crunch culture).
Alright? Does everybody feel ready? Can I get a ”F**k yeah!”? Jamming is a party for game dev skills! If you need help for any reason, feel free to find me in the Twittersphere! @ElieAbraham64
GO DO IT! I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOU!
ELIE ABRAHAM (they/them)
Composer ♫ Sound Designer ♫ Voice Actor
Escape Designer ♥ Comedian ♥ Queer Activist