If you have been curious about game jams, this week is your lucky week! All this week, we are covering every aspect of game jams; and ultimately, how they can improve your skills as an indie developer. Yesterday, we discussed how to start an online game jam if there are not any in your area, but what if you want to start a game jam for indie developers in your area? Chris Tihor over at the game development section of Tuts+ has written an awesome, in-depth guide that tells you what you need to know about running your own game jam for the local folk in your area. It’s worth reading, worth bookmarking, and worth reading a second time around. But before you do, check out a few key points about running a local game jam below, and decide for yourself if it’s indeed something you want to do.
Decide a date ahead of time
As Chris point out, running a game jam isn’t something you should do on a whim. A game jam takes a lot of planning, time, and unfortunately a little money. The success of a game jam depends on attendance (obviously), so you need to ensure the date of your game jam is:
- During a weekend.
- Doesn’t conflict with other events (such as bigger game conferences) and holidays. If you book your game jam the weekend before or after Christmas, don’t expect anyone to show up.
Be sure the weekend doesn’t conflict with big, local events as well. For example, if your city has a huge music festival annually, you probably don’t want to book your game jam during this weekend.
Chris also states that you need to choose a proper location. This can either be the easiest of hardest part of booking your game jam – especially since the space needs to be accessible the entire 48-hours of the game jam. If there is a local educational institute in your area, they likely offer programs that are related to game design such as computer science and art courses. They may allow you to have a game jam in one of their spaces, and if they do? You’re all set!
Also consider conference rooms in hotels, gymnasiums – essentially, any place with open space that can be accessed 24/7!
Volunteers are mandatory
You need to build anticipation for your game jam, and the best way to do this is to dually announce your game jam and that you need volunteers. Place flyers at your local arcade (yes, they’re still around), educational institutions, local game shops, comic shops – anywhere your flyer can easily be seen by indie developers. Be sure to include contact information and a link where interested parties can learn more about the event (such as a Facebook Event Page).
Volunteers are going to be the lifeblood of your game jam – and in order to pull it off successfully, you’re going to need them; especially if you want to provide food at the event. Chris points out that you at least need to provide snacks and drinks for attendees so they do not constantly have to leave to eat and drink.
Alternatively, you could provide an entire meal for everyone so nobody has a reason to leave. This could get expensive – especially when you consider that some of your attendees could have specific food allergies or only eat certain types of food. If this is your first game jam, you may want to just stick to snacks, drinks, and coffee.
Starting a game jam isn’t something you can do spur-of-the-moment. It takes time, planning, funding, volunteers, a bit of marketing, and most importantly, people that actually want to attend the event. If you have indie developers in your area that are hungry to get together with other likeminded people and show the community what they’re made of, ask them personally what they want to get out of the game jam and brainstorm some ideas that can make the game jam a surefire hit. This isn’t going to be easy, but if you pull it off, both you and your local community of indie developers are going to be glad you did this, and if it’s a hit? You will have an even bigger turnout next year!
If you have any questions or comments about starting a local game jam, let us know in the comments below; and again, check out Chris’ fantastic guide for starting your own game jam. It’s well worth the read!