3 things I did and 3 I wish I didn't when hosting Global Game Jam
Updated: Aug 24
Had you have told me a year ago that I would be the site organizer for Karlstads Global Game Jam in 2022 I would have become puzzled and eager to know “how”.
Globally, the game developers of the world have found a way to organize every year during the same short period of time to indulge ourselves in creating games. Global Game Jam isn’t a competition, but a chance for us to challenge ourselves and our creative productivity. A year ago, I had graduated with my bachelor's degree in psychology, believing I would work as an HR assistant in my home city.
But things turned around when a friend of mine recommended I join the local GGJ (Global Game Jam) site and find a team that would have me. After three days of remote teamwork, being exhausted with happy stress, we submitted our game. Out of three dozen games from our local site, ours were selected as a memorable contribution – which made me super happy. I told my team that I would love to work on a more serious project, with a bigger scope, with a commercial product as the end goal. One of my team members said he would like to join forces and I started to look into game development as a serious business.
Wouldn't it be for my participation in GGJ I wouldn’t have applied for the position I have today as the community manager at The Great Journey. With the goal of helping game studios develop their game ideas and support a sustainable work environment, my new workplace was all about game jams.
So how do you arrange a successful game jam?
Here is what I learned:
Plan and offer the jammers (game jam participants) a schedule. Game Jams can become a fever dream if you don’t provide jammers some excuse to take a break. We had a pizza break and game-test break on our schedule.
Do it together!
Having my co-game manager Blair help during the weekend was necessary. Without a tag, it’s not possible to enter the site, so having two people in charge of opening the doors decreased the time of the poor souls standing in the cold.
Having a “🥶let-me-in”-channel on Discord was handy.
End the jam with a “Big Finale”
An award at the end of the long, hardworking weekend was appreciated by the jammers. We had set aside a game-testing session from 6 pm to 8 pm with a panel including senior game developers from different studios. Even if GGJ isn’t a competition, we asked the jury to choose their two top favorites – it always adds some spice to the process, people get excited to show their game for a panel and audience.
What to avoid:
Not connecting people
We’ve learned from previous game jams that connecting people should be our primary goal. Prioritizing bigger mixed teams rather than several small teams has shown to be more successful. In November we paired two newcomer friends without an additional team member from our community. They made a solid platform game but didn’t get the opportunity to network. During Global Game Jam we matched newcomers with other community members which resulted in creating the winning team of the jam!
Having a site where people can assemble is great but be careful promising too much! On Friday night, some participants lacked the setup they needed. It worked out eventually. Avoid this problem by asking the jammers to book the available gear in advance and letting them know what they have to bring to the facility.
Harmful Discord Bots spreading shenanigans.
On Sunday morning, we had an issue where some bot had joined our Discord server and posted a harmful link on every channel. I had to start the day by deleting the posts and banning the trespasser which took away time from me participating in the game jam. Avoid harmful bots by creating mandatory steps as security measures.
Arranging game jams is a learning experience, in which every jam is different. The first and most important rule is to have fun and make games. Playing games should be fun and so should create them.
Organizing a game jam with the purpose of creating a fun and relaxed atmosphere has made people want to come back. You never know, you might change a person's career.
Niki Chalusi is our Community Manager here at The Great Journey.
You can reach out to her if you have any questions about the community, your game idea or just want to have a goose-break!
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