The 2024 edition of the Global Game Jam (GGJ) just recently took place, and Concordia University was one of the two sites hosted in Montreal. With over 40000 participants registered and more than 7500 games submitted in 2023, the GGJ is by far the largest event of its kind in the whole world. My team and I participated in this year's edition and a few other ones before, so I thought I could share some insight as to why I think every game amateur and anyone aspiring to make a career out of making games should participate in one, and I will also share a few tips to having a successful game jam.

If you haven’t heard of them before, Game Jams are organized events in which participants group up to create a video game. These normally take place over the weekend and can last up to one week, and jammers can attend virtually or in person for the most part. On the day the jam starts, a theme will be revealed and all jammers must design their game around it. This makes for an action-packed, time-crunching, and creatively constrained experience, but trust me it’s a lot more fun than it sounds.

Why participate in game jams?

If you are anything like me, you have a backlog full of unfinished projects waiting for you to pick back up, and sadly probably never will. If this sounds familiar, then participating in a game jam might be for you. Working against a tight timeline (from 48 hrs. to 1 week) will definitely limit the scope of the project you are working on. In fact, statistics from a survey from the GGJ 2017 indicate that 58% of jammers chose the minimum viable product strategy, while 52% opted for scope management software development strategies to guide their game creation process (Borg et al. 2020). These approaches minimize the risk of ending up with an unfinished project by compelling developers to prioritize the completion of the game. Unlike personal projects with no time constraints, the time crunch of a game jam necessitates trimming down the scope of your game, ensuring that you walk away with a finished, perhaps a bit unpolished, project that is playable from A to Z.

Game Jams are a great opportunity to see projects through from start to finish in less than a week. They put your skills to the test and you will also get to develop some new ones. For instance, project management is one of the most essential skills involved in creating a project, and even more so in a game jam because of the time and theme constraints. If it’s one of your first game jams, it’s easy to overestimate the amount of work you can do. That’s why it's all so important to be able to adapt your game on the fly, make decisions on cutting parts, or even restart your game if time allows you. Skills like this will follow you in other projects you will undertake, giving you a better idea of what to expect while developing them.

Jamming - The Process & Recommendation

I found that Wikipedia has a very nice analogy for game jams. If we look at the composition of the word, it is composed of the words game, and jam, like in a musical jam session.

"A jam session describes the musical act of producing music with little to no prior preparation to develop new material or simply to practice."

I find this analogy so relevant to game jams. Jammers are just a small group bouncing ideas off each other each with our own influences, coming up with a brand new idea. It's really beautiful when you look at it from this angle.

Limit Your Team Size

In any musical jam, you can only have so many jammers, just like a kitchen can only have so many cooks before everyone starts stepping on their toes, and this is all so true for a game jam too. As much as you would like to invite all of your friends to participate it's just not possible to do so on such a small project. I had to learn this on my very first jam. My friends and I wanted to try out a game jam, so we set out, a team of 8 people let me tell you, it was not pretty. Half of the people ended up doing nothing, some waiting for others to complete tasks. Maybe it could have worked out for a 2-week project, but 48 hrs. is too short.

Organizing Ideas

Now that you have found your crew, it is important to be able to effectively communicate a plan of action. By far the most popular technique for finding an initial idea is brainstorming, with 76% of the GGJ 2017 survey respondents reporting they did just that (Borg et al. 2020). From my own experience, my team and I like to come up with a few low-level ideas, from 3-5, elaborate them one by one, and end up picking the one that feels right in regards to the theme of the jam, the scope of the project and overall how fun we think the game will be. But it's also important to keep track of the original idea and adapt it as time goes on. Sometimes ideas aren't as ironed out as some thought they were, and jammers need to better define them. The easiest way to do this, considering the small team size and the proximity of groups when in person or one online call away, is just to have a team huddle and discuss the topic at hand. That's exactly what 47% of participants in Borg's study responded (Borg et al. 2020).

Balancing Time

Sleep! Please Sleep! Yes a game jam's main constraint is the lack of time and it will be an issue you will encounter, but please sleep. I don't think I have to talk about the drawbacks of lacking sleep while trying to be productive to understand that it will not help you. Maybe you will be able to do more during the game jam itself, but your week after is doomed! So do yourself a favour and don't compromise your sleep for the competition. For trying to work through 48 hrs. without sleeping myself, I can say it was a memorable and quite fun experience, however the following week at school was a real pain, and I couldn't catch back the sleep dept I created for myself till the next weekend. So if you are afraid that you might not finish in time, don't cut on your sleep, but rather the scope of your game.

Ready, Set, Jam!

Now that you've got a glimpse into the exhilarating world of game jams, it's time to take the plunge yourself. Whether you're a seasoned developer or just dipping your toes into game creation, participating in a game jam can be a transformative experience. From honing your skills to fostering teamwork and creativity under pressure, the benefits are plentiful.

So gather your team, brainstorm some ideas, and get ready for an exhilarating weekend (or week) of game development. And don't forget to prioritize your well-being along the way! Sleep, eat, and take breaks to recharge.

Brainrot - My Jam

If ever you are interested, here is my team's submission to this year's GGJ: Brainrot | Global Game Jam. This year's theme was "Make Me Laugh", which is actually not so inspiring since humor is so subjective. So we decided to take an unconventional approach, making more of a critical piece where you, "the player" are scrolling on TikTok so that the app can "entertain you".


M. Borg, V. Garousi, A. Mahmoud, T. Olsson and O. Stålberg, "Video Game Development in a Rush: A Survey of the Global Game Jam Participants," in IEEE Transactions on Games, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 246-259, Sept. 2020, doi: 10.1109/TG.2019.2910248.

5 Biggest Game Jam Events In The World