Ludum Dare, one of my favorite game jams, is going on at the time I’m writing this article. Game Jams are competitions where individuals or teams make a game in a short period of time, usually around a chosen theme. Some people don’t end up finishing, many end up with a small project to be proud of, and a few come out with a hit. No matter which category you may fall under, every game developer should participate in a game jam. Here’s why.
As an indie or hobbyist game developer, it can be hard to set deadlines for yourself and work for long periods of time. With game jams, because you only have a set period of time, you are much more conscious of your time.
You are more likely to be productive with deadlines. For Ludum Dare, I find myself setting daily goals. For example, I set my idea in stone on Friday, program on Saturday, and do the art on Sunday. Because I know exactly what I want to be done and when, I am much more efficient in working on my game. Because you are more efficient, my next point will likely be true.
You leave with a finished Game
I believe the single hardest part of game development is finishing a game. Although I have 6 completed projects, I have several other incomplete projects laying around on my hard drive. Especially for new developers, finishing a game is a mental and physical challenge.
Game Jams are the best opportunity to finish a game. Because you only have a few days or so, you have to think small and be able to make something quick. The goal of a game jam is to finish a game, so you are focusing on just that.
Sure your game may take 5 minutes to beat, be full of bugs, and have some ugly art, but you have a finished game. You now have a better idea of what to expect from the development process in the future, so you can actually finish bigger and more complete games.
Interaction with a great community
I can only speak for the Ludum Dare community, but I have found game jams to be chalk full of good people. Everyone wants to see everyone succeed by playing others games and helping them improve. A lot of people also look to work on teams and assist others with their own games. I find it so great that in a game jam “competition”, everyone seems to be helping one another rather than trying to beat each other. I’d encourage all participants to play a bunch of other game jam entries after the competition is over, comment, and connect with other developers. It is likely to pay off.
If you are a game developer who has completed dozens of games or hasn’t even made one, you should participate in a game jam.