JamToday Fair Barcelona: Panel Discussion on Game Jam Experiences: Lessons Learned
JamToday Fair, 1 December 2015
A roundtable discussion was held on the 1st of December during the 2nd annual JamToday Fair in Barcelona. Organisers of the previous game jams from Glasgow (UK), Torino (IT), Milan (IT), Utrecht (NL), and Kerava (FI) shared their experiences. After initial introductions the discussion started with the experiences from first time game jam organisers.
On the whole everybody was very pleased with the results of the game jam stressing the interesting experiences all the participants had. The number of participants and the backgrounds differed between the various locations. Everybody was impressed with the end results of the teams. Some people struggled with finding enough participants and sponsorships. There was some discussion about participant’s level of experience prior to the game jam. In some locations rookie participants were afraid to participate fearing they didn’t have enough experience to contribute anything of value. This hurdle was tackled differently per city.
Ways JamToday applied game jam organisers tackled gaps in knowledge
Torino organised a few workshops before the game jam to familiarise the members with the basic concepts.
Utrecht organised motivational speeches from experts in the field. Next year the game jam will take place in the same vocational institute (ROC Utrecht) and participants will have specialised classes about maths and games before the game jam.
Glasgow organised a special rookie game jam after the actual game jam to increase the experience level of participants for the next game jam.
Kerava (Finland) participants were inexperienced in terms of programming, but were provided with readily available free tools sponsored by Microsoft and mentors, which allowed them to complete the working prototypes.
Game Jams: A Global Perspective
Niels Keetels game designer and educator at the HKU University of the Arts Utrecht, shared his experiences organising game jams in Korea and China. The cultural differences and at times lack of a common language were taken into account by kick-starting the game jams with design exercises to create a common language. Examples of this are exercises such as ‘the Marshmallow Challenge’ (http://marshmallowchallenge.com/Welcome.html) and playing applied games (without mentioning they are applied games). During a game jam in China, Niels chose to do a short dry run of a game jam (4 hours) so the students knew what to expect.
Feedback from participants
Two participants of this year’s game jams were present and gave feedback. The participant from Glasgow already had experience with the Global Game Jam (http://globalgamejam.org/), but not with applied games. He was very inspired by the lectures of the domain experts at the beginning of the game jam. Instead of choosing to design a game prototype about healthy food, his team developed a concept for people with macular degeneration, a medical condition which results in blurred or no vision. He also mentioned that the atmosphere during the JamToday game jam was more relaxed than during GGJ. The Italian student found it a fun and inspiring experience.
Applied game jams: Transfer and Impact
The question was posed whether the game jams also have long lasting effects for the participants. Several people gave examples of how long lasting effects are visible. Game studios are sometimes formed or people get a job because of a good co-working experience during the jam. Sometimes sponsors or other stakeholders specifically use the game jam to see how potential employees work during a jam (because you get a better picture than by just having an interview). In general students who actively participate in a jam are also visible in the games industry afterwards. Needless to say, the prototypes created are a great addition to a more varied portfolio. Networks in terms of friendships and new contacts are established during a jam.
Tips for the Future