How Important Are Game Jams To Indie Developers?

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In today’s article, I look at game jams and how they have successfully helped one man in his professional career.

Game jams are events where people get together for the sole purpose of creating a game in a set period of time. They are typically 24 to 48 hours, but can sometimes last for up to two weeks. You don’t have to be in the venue to compete in some, though it is preferred for the experience.

One of the main things you need to remember when going to a game jam is that it isn’t about making the next big hit, but about going crazy and making short, wacky games that are fun to play. Although sometimes, good things can come from them.

For example, last week I interviewed Paul Leishman from Pixel Sword about the success he found after competing in a 7 hour game jam at the University of Abertay. As he worked on a game where you had to shove your opponents off the edge of a circle arena, some guys from Proper Games, developers of Flock!, were sitting opposite him. They recognized him 6 months later when he applied for his first job after university, and he got it.

Although you could say it was his university course that got him the job, a lot of companies look for practical experience outside of university to show you are actually passionate about the subject you are studying. Otherwise, they could end up with an unmotivated employee doing it for the wrong reasons.

So if you are looking for a job in the gaming industry, it maybe helpful to attend a few of these game jams and get to know some developers, especially if you plan to dive straight in as an indie developer. You never know when you are going to need help on a larger project, or with an area you are not so experienced in.

If you haven’t competed in a game jam before, here are some helpful tips from Paul:

“Don’t be afraid of failing and work with a team. It’s really hard to do it solo. I did my first jam solo and failed miserably but I had so much fun that I kept going. Also keep your ideas small and daft. Some of the best games have been silly little things that wouldn’t work in the real world. Friends of mine once made a 4 player competitive typing game that only used one keyboard.

The spirit of a jam is not about the competition but about the creativity and the fun. If you keep that in mind, you will come up with some great stuff.”

– Callum

Callum Goss

Callum Goss is a current BTEC IT student who rarely talks about himself in third-person, loves games, tweets about random shizz, and believed he had invented the word ‘shizz’ until he Googled it.

View all contributions by Callum Goss


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