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5 Types of Game Jams I’d Like To See

Game developers as a group are without a doubt some of the most creative people on the planet. And while I’m sure there are plenty of really interesting and creative game jams going on out there, the majority are carrying the same old formula of “pick a theme and binge code until the buzzer”.

We can do better… and not because I think we have to, just because I think it’d be fun to. So here are 5 game jams I’d like to see:

  1. Not My Proto Game Jam
    We all have gobs of abandoned prototypes lying around that might be dead ends for us but found gold for others. Why not get together, pass an old prototype to the person on your left and see what it sparks? I’m not suggesting we finish each others’ projects, but it would be fun to see what a seemingly hopeless proto might inspire in another.
  2. Space Jam (nope, not that Space Jam)
    spacejamI studied architecture in college and it was common for us to be asked to find a space on campus, sketch for a bit and then design something inspired by that space. Why not try the same thing with a game jam? We could start the jam off with a nice group meal and then venture out into the world for 30 minutes of inspiration. Maybe the town square looks like a tower defense game to you, maybe you see a physics puzzle game or perhaps end up focusing on a tiny detail that sparks something completely unexpected. If a picture is worth a thousand words, surely a 3D space is worth far more.
  3. Mystery Box Jam
    Picture this. Actually, that’s ambiguous. Picture what follows. Every game dev participating in the jam receives a box in the mail with a random object (or objects) inside from another participant. On the day of the jam, everybody opens their box and designs something based on what they find. A variation might be to put a card in the box with a link to your game on it and then forward the box to a new jammer when you’re done. Over time the box would become a living record of games inspired by that object.
  4. Asset Jam
    Each dev is given the same set of art assets at the start of the jam. You can distort, crop or mess with the assets however you choose but you cannot use any additional assets. Seeing how different people interpret and use the art would be very interesting, I suspect.
  5. Inversion Jam
    Take a popular game and have each developer design a game based on a perspective not of the hero. For example, maybe Tetris is the seed and you design a game that involves assembling and deploying blocks. Or Mario Kart gives rise to some sort of Carcassonne-like map building strategy game. I’ve always gotten a lot out of taking something I’ve seen a million times and trying to look at it from a completely foreign angle.

Anyway, I’ve got no discontent for the tried and true game jams but it would be fun to use our creativity to spice up our game jams and not just the games themselves. If you know of any neat jams or have ideas of your own, please leave them in the comments :)

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On Starting AND Finishing Your Game

Don’t forget that we create in order to share. If you don’t finish your work you’re depriving yourself of a lot of the experience, some of which can be the best part. Even if you don’t love it, finish it. A mediocre but complete complete project is almost always better than an unfinished game.

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Lazy Thief isn’t a mobile game so when people ask me about it I find myself up that creek (you know the one) without a paddle. I finally set aside some time to make a brief trailer showcasing some of Lazy Thief’s 50 puzzles. In retrospect it probably would have made more sense to publish a trailer leading up to the game, but hey, live and learn.

As you can see I’m not much a video editor, but it gets the job done. My chief goal was to keep it under 30 seconds, so mission accomplished I guess :)

If you find yourself intrigued, you can play Lazy Thief here.

Art by: Ajay Karat
Music by: Randy Heidema

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On Doing What You Love

This one is applies to more than game development, as many from the onGames series do, but this one more than most I think. When you do something that you’re passionate about it’s not only hard to make the distinction between work and play, it’s often impossible. This can be good and bad, but more often than not it’s great :)

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On When to Take a Break

In the programming world especially, there’s this badge of honor that seems to come with hunkering down for long stretches of coding. And certainly when you’re in “the zone” (yes, it’s a thing) you want to keep things rolling. But other times, like when you’re really stuck, you’ve probably hit that point of diminishing return where your time isn’t being well spent any more.

One of the most valuable skills I’ve picked up over the years isn’t having learned a tool or a language. Rather, it’s having learned when to push through a problem and when to take a break. Whether it’s your subconscious working for you while you’re “unplugged” or just returning with a fresh mind, walking away from a problem is very often a better way to solve than simply bludgeoning it with time.

Sure, you might solve the problem if you throw another 3 hours at it, but you’re also very likely to have a fresh look and a 15 minute solution when you come back to it the next morning.

Learn when to walk away. Nobody is keeping stats on how long you’ve gone without getting up… except maybe you.

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