Game Jams

Hello Coders! 👾

Today I’d like to talk about Game Jams. Events where programmers, artists, and others come together to create small games, can be a thrilling and rewarding experience. Not only are they a fun way to improve your skills, but they also offer the chance to meet new people, collaborate, and test out creative ideas in a dynamic environment. I’ve participated in a couple of jams. Most of my games started out as a jam entry. But recently I teamed up with a couple of colleagues for the gamedev.js 2024 game jam. Our entry, Power Fruits is a “Blox Fruit”-inspired third-person brawler where collecting powerful fruits is your key to success. I personally don’t do the really short game jame of a weekend or even a day. With family and work, this takes too big of a chunk out of my time. Luckily there are plenty of jams that span 10 days to even a month.

In this blog post, I’ll go over some of the basics that might be helpful if you’d like to participate in a game jam. Starting from pre-event preparation and going all the way to the presentation and evaluation of your game. With these insights, you’ll be ready to dive into your next game jam with confidence and create something you’re proud to share.

Pre-Event Preparation

Before diving into the excitement of a game jam, it’s helpful to do some preparation to set yourself up for a smooth jam. First, you’ll need to decide whether will you be going solo or joining forces as part of a team.

Participating solo can be an incredibly rewarding venture that allows you complete creative control and can be a great exercise in self-reliance and time management. But, it also means you are responsible for every aspect of the game.

If you opt for the team approach, consider finding like-minded individuals or teaming up with people you already know and trust. I’ve found that game jam organizers often have a Discord server with a dedicated channel for the jam. That would be a great place to find a team to join if you’re having trouble finding others. Once your dream team is in place, it’s time to define roles clearly. Discuss who will take on tasks such as programming, art, sound, or design to ensure a balanced skill set across the project. However, it is perfectly fine if everyone is equal in the team since often the entire team consists of developers.

Regardless of the route you choose, becoming familiar with the tools, software and frameworks you’ll be using is imperative. Each member, or you as a solo developer, should have a solid grasp of the chosen technology to streamline the game development process. Effective preparation paves the way for a successful and enjoyable game jam.

I like to challenge myself in certain jams to limit myself to using a specific framework. Or in the case of the last JS13K , no framework WebXR. This way the jam becomes a big learning exercise.


The real adventure begins once the game jam kicks off and the theme is unveiled. This is the moment to unleash your creativity and brainstorm with fervor. Initially, allow the storm of ideas to flow without restriction—every spark of imagination is valuable. As ideas accumulate and form a rich tapestry of possibilities, the next step is to refine these concepts, distilling them to their most promising essences. During this process, remember that creating every asset from scratch isn’t always necessary or feasible within the tight timeframe of a game jam.

I sometimes already have a specific game mechanic in mind I’d like to try out during the jam. The big part of brainstorming is to fit the theme of the jam to that specific mechanic.

Since not everyone can create their own assets during the time of the jam, it’s totally fine to use some assets other people made. There’s an abundance of remarkable free assets available, or you can choose to purchase some to elevate your project without overextending your development schedule. For instance, in our last game jam entry, we utilized some fantastic assets from Kay Lousberg, which you can find at . These assets can greatly enhance the visual and auditory quality of your game, providing a professional touch that might otherwise require hours of labor-intensive work.

The clock is ticking, so it’s crucial to converge on a single, viable game concept. By incorporating readily available assets, you can focus on the core mechanics and gameplay to ensure a polished final product. Keep simplicity at the core of your decision-making process; an uncomplicated yet engaging idea, bolstered by quality assets, is often the key to a successful game jam project. Maybe the biggest tip I can give is to get the main game loop in place as soon as possible and add all the rest later. If everything else fails there’s at least a playable game.

Prototype & Test

The transition from idea to action is crucial, and that’s where prototyping comes into play. Prioritize the creation of a prototype swiftly, as it becomes the foundation on which you can test, tweak, and iterate your design. Start by outlining the core mechanics of the game—what actions and strategies will engage the players? During this phase, our focus is heavily on the ‘fun’ factor of the game; ensuring that the gameplay is enjoyable and compelling is paramount. We constantly ask ourselves, “Is this fun?” because if it’s not enjoyable, it won’t resonate with the players.

After defining the gameplay elements that will contribute to the fun, sketching levels and objects comes next, giving you a rudimentary visual and structural idea of your envisioned game. With these outlines in hand, develop a prototype. This initial version need not be complete; it simply has to represent the core gameplay loop to allow for a practical evaluation. Testing and iterating on this prototype is critical, with debugging and refining emerging as continual companions throughout this stage of the game jam.

Remember, a successful prototype is one that captures the essence of the fun you’re aiming to deliver. It’s a dynamic process that involves testing with real players and refining based on their feedback. Keep the gameplay loop engaging, and don’t be afraid to cut features that don’t add to the fun. The objective is to polish the mechanics that offer the most enjoyable experience within the time you have.

Polish & Present

With a robust prototype in hand, the focus shifts towards adding the finishing touches that will transform your project into a polished game ready for presentation. This final phase often brings with it a whirlwind of activity and, admittedly, a fair share of stress. As the clock winds down, there’s an intense push to cram in as much content as possible and squash as many bugs as we can. Our last submission was a race against time, with the entry being submitted with a mere 18 seconds left on the clock—an exhilarating, albeit nerve-wracking, experience that seems to have become a ritual in game jam culture.

This is the phase where art and sound intertwine to elevate the aesthetics and auditory experience, bringing the world you’ve crafted to life. Once these elements are integrated, engage in final playtests to iron out any lingering issues, aiming for the smoothest gameplay possible upon submission. Additionally, it’s essential to craft an engaging and succinct presentation that encapsulates the essence of your game, ensuring it resonates with the judges. Keep in mind to start this in time, maybe even have the page ready ahead of time. You don’t want to end up in a situation where your game is done, but you can’t submit in time because you have 10 seconds to get an page. In the case of our Gamedev.js 2024 entry, we even had an automated pipeline set up to deploy to Itch when tagging a build with a version number.

The last moments before submission are about showcasing your hard work and creativity in its best light, balancing the rush to polish features with the practical need to present a cohesive and functioning game. In the end, it’s about delivering a game that you are proud of, within the constraints and pressures that come with the territory of game jams.

Celebrate & Debrief

As the game jam draws to a close, it’s time to step back and revel in your accomplishments. Join in the celebration with your team or mingle with fellow participants, sharing stories and experiences from the creative battlefield. But the journey doesn’t end with the submission. Reflecting post-jam is an integral part of the experience, offering a moment to assess what strategies succeeded, what could have been done better, and what lessons can be carried forward to future projects.

Winning may bring a moment of glory, yet the true reward of a game jam is found in the exhilarating process of creation, the camaraderie built among peers, and the fun that permeates the event’s atmosphere. Cherish these moments, because each game jam is a unique adventure that contributes to your growth as a developer. With every challenge you embrace and each project you undertake, you’re not just making a game; you’re honing your craft and shaping your journey in the world of game development.

Happy Coding! 🚀