As the convention season will soon be underway for 2019, another event is on the not so distant horizon: the Global Game Jam. For those unaware, a game jam is an event where people organize together and make a game, all within 48 hours. The Global Game Jam is an excellent way for those interested in the gaming industry to get some hands-on experience and network with local, like-minded individuals.
I first participated in a game jam in 2011, when I was in my final year of high school. My role on the team was working on backgrounds and textures for the platformer game that we created. The five of us stayed up through the entire night working on it, but, when we were done, we had a working demo that we presented in front of the rest of the participants. Admittedly, in the years since we created this game I have forgotten the details of the story and most of the graphics, but I do remember the weekend quite fondly. It was an opportunity to forge new friendships, get hands-on experience, and to take pride in finishing a game, no matter how simple it was. In short, it is an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world, and I highly recommend that anyone who is interested in the gaming industry check it out. For those worried about lack of experience, fear not: I dove into it with almost zero experience other than some basic digital image manipulation and the ability to draw in Photoshop. This event is less of a competition and more about teamwork and creativity.
For those who may find the idea of signing up daunting, it’s quite simple: head over to the Global Game Jam website to sign up for free before January 4th. Although the game jam is a global event, the work is done locally with other registered participants on site. There are other game jams that you can participate in solely online, but this isn’t one of them. The Global Game Jam is restricted to 18+ or age of majority in your region, although their website does state that, in some exceptions, those accompanied by a legal guardian can attend, although always check with the local coordinator.
Be aware that some game jams may charge a registration fee, but that seems to be at a maximum around $25 USD, with most of the game jams I saw being free to join. From there, you’ll be matched up with others, although this process varies from location to location, so check out the specific page for your event for details. If you can’t participate this year, sign-ups for the Global Game Jam typically start in November, so keep that in mind. Even if you miss out this year, there’s always next year, and you have the opportunity to brainstorm and work on your skills to prepare.
In the unfortunate event that there are no game jams in your area, you have two options: you can either find one to participate in online over at itch.io, or host your own (keeping in mind the January 4th sign up deadline). One of the best things about the Global Game Jam is that you only need a minimum of two people to register, so even if it’s just you and a friend or two initially, you can still participate in an official capacity with the possibility of making new connections along the way.