Working in the gaming industry you get to explore many different events, from conventions to awards, but the most fun are game jams. A game jam is an event in which people participate to make video games in a limited amount of time, usually a weekend, ideally with a theme at hand.
Every organizer has different ways to put these jams together, just as everyone has a different way to select themes; whether it might be chosen by those who organize it, or voted on by participants. Some even have competitive elements in which people vote.
Such is the case of Ludum Dare. I had heard about them for a very long time, but never had the chance to participate in any – luckily, this recently changed.
Back in 2015 I got to participate in my first game jam, thus Twatter was born. The goal was to do a game from scratch with people who had never done anything game development related. I had worked on four flash games in early 2000, so I decided to invite one of my best friends to join, Gonçalo Gonçalves; he learned Construct, I learned Inkscape. My PC fried, his internet died, but we made it!
I had a lot of fun with TeamUp Jam, and that’s why I decided to talk the forever grumps Michael Silverman into doing Ludum Dare together. We really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but we had so much fun surviving it. You can check out our entry here, Matchy’s Kooky Cookies!
Ludum Dare, the world’s largest and longest running game jam event, has thousands of participants with all sorts of talents and experiences. While there are many limitations in terms of how you utilize assets, along with the time, you also set yourself up to be ranked in: graphics, sound, fun, innovation, theme, humor, mood, and overall score.
There are so many takeaways I got from this experience, from the standpoint of what a derivative work is, and understanding reusable assets. As a business mind, I know how to navigate through legal technicalities, but the nuisances of the actual technical artwork in practice, that was somewhat new. Including the fact that something can be fun, yet not have any humorous elements – and vice versa. Overall, it made me aware of plenty little details that, when it comes to marketing and publishing work, are somewhat invisible, yet highly valuable to consider.
In terms of the design leg of work, it’s a far greater appreciation of the anxiety of game development. In publishing, this is not something you get to experience. We get handed over the final build, you don’t get much of a say in development, but after everything is already done – rarely ever, any insight gets considered over budget reasons. It must take an important change for it to go back into development, because it takes on more money for development.
Having an actual say in these circumstances can help improve graphic choices, thus adding to the whole gaming experience. However, having limited time makes you experience the excruciating stress game developers go through when trying to wrap up a build – a thousand things you would want to do, yet you have to choose prioritize what you can do instead. Experiencing categories to vote on, also brings a new perspective on elements that you don’t normally think of while trying to put together a build in such sort time. Last but not least, including the endless talent of some that do more and better than you, includes a humbling learning curve that motivates you to explore furthermore.
Keeping perspective of what you want, while trying to meet up to what you should do, is not quite the straight forward task. Being able to step out of my comfort zone of business development, and put myself into the stress of game development, sure brings a new found respect for developers. I had no idea how hard doing tutorials were, or the mad rush you get from someone finishing your game, it sure brings perspective. It’s a learning experience that forces me to improve my communication competence, and therefore, make publishing more fruitful.
Categorised in: Matchy's Kooky Cookies