Insomnia, short deadlines, stress and equipment failure - so what's the appeal?

JournoDevSwap: The magic and misery of game jams

[For their fourth article, our developer-cum-journalists were tasked with writing an opinion piece – You can find all the JournoDevSwap articles here.]

At the UKIE JournoDevSwap, developers, journalists and student programmers were all lucky if they managed to get more than a few hours sleep due to having effectively volunteered into a weekend of crunch.

The aim behind this particular game jam was to foster better appreciation between game devs and journos for what it’s like on the other side, as well as giving the talented young students a chance to show off their skills.

The purpose of most game jams is to create a game within a short space of time while adhering to a set of rules. They’re hard work and stressful, yet simultaneously rewarding and fun.

Game jams often provide a theme to work to, which can help to foster creativity and give you a useful starting block. They are also excellent places to meet people with similar interests. They can provide great networking opportunities if you’re trying to break into the industry since plenty of professional games developers often take part too.

In addition to this, they’re also a brilliant place to learn from other people. Working on a game as part of a team is a valuable, educational experience.

Whether you’re making the most of your existing skills or taking on a new role that you’ve never done before, you’re pretty much guaranteed to learn something from the experience.

Another useful aspect is the time limit which encourages you to set realistic goals. This means you get to experience the joy of finishing a game, and discover that you can actually make an entire game in a very short space of time.

You learn more from finishing one project than you do from starting multiple ones and you learn more from finishing lots of small projects than you do from working on fewer, big projects.

The best way to ensure you finish within the time limit is to make something very simple. This will enable you to get the core mechanic working quickly so you can then iterate on it, adding polish only if you have time.

While there are free versions of industry standard engines such as UDK and Unity that you can use, there are also game making tools that don’t even need scripting or coding knowledge such as Gamemaker, Construct 2, GameSalad or Multimedia Fusion 2.

There are more jams than ever these days and more than likely one not too far from you. There are also now a wealth of online game jams meaning that you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home to participate.

The rising popularity of game jams is exciting because the more people that get involved in making games, the better. We’ll see more interesting and diverse games pushing more boundaries, creating more genres and doing things previously unimagined.

We’re only scratching the surface of what games can become, and the more of us we have pushing the boundaries together, the better.

So if you’ve never tried a game jam then step up and give it a go, you’ll be surprised at what you’re capable of creating.

You can keep up to date with all the news stories/interviews/blogs/previews/reviews as they come in on theJournoDevSwap tag.

You can also keep up with the latest goings on through Twitter at hashtag #JournoDevSwap – As well as viewing the latest images and videos on

Let us know what you think of our new Develop editors in the comments section below and on Twitter.

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