Global Game Jam 2019

One of my goals for 2019 is to get serious about game writing and get some professional work, and I knew that going to a game jam would be a great way to kickstart that: a chance to meet folks in the industry, to get a taste of what it would be like to work with a dev team, and hopefully get a finished game for my portfolio.

So it was a great opportunity, but honestly? I was pretty nervous.

I didn’t know what to expect, but I had vague ideas about pulling all-nighters, napping on the floor, and being surrounded by people with way more experience than me using programs I’d never heard of. Most of all, as someone whose prior game making experience consists of a couple of interactive stories on Twine, I expected to feel like a total outsider hopelessly out of my depth.

I’m so happy I was wrong.

Guildford Game Jam 2019 was made up of an incredibly friendly group of creative people who worked hard but didn’t take things overly seriously, who were always around to help out when needed. There was support on the technical front, but people also made sure you ate and slept and looked after yourself. People asked and offered help of all kinds, and there was a real team spirit in the air.

I’d also been worried about finding a group to work with, but a team grew organically from the people I was sitting with as we waited for the commencement video to start. We went out for dinner together and the plan for the game built quickly as everyone threw ideas together over Japanese food and plum wine (surely the best way to start to start any project). They made me feel welcome and like a real part of the team, and I’m so grateful to them for making my first game jam such a great experience.

A few of the things I learned this weekend:

·         teamwork makes the dream work: I’ve been involved in many teams in my working life, but I’ve never been part of a group as supportive as this one. We all helped out wherever we could, picking up art, adding our voices to the soundtrack, even helping other teams.

·         scope, and having to ruthlessly cut your work: I’d heard about this from an acquaintance who works for a AAA studio, who had a major quest cut after he and his team had spent months on it. Having a level in a game jam was nowhere near the same thing, but that level had some good dialogue, darn it! But that’s the nature of the industry, and cuts are necessary to make everything come together in time. It was an important lesson, and my team helped me learn it gently.

·         pitch in: If you’ve got skills that can be useful, even if they’re not your usual wheelhouse, offer them up. I haven’t really drawn in years, but as well as drawing assets for our team’s game, I drew the main character for another team and seeing that little fish on a bike in a real game was incredibly cool.

I loved walking around and seeing what everyone was up to. I didn’t understand half of it, but that was part of the fun. Not just programmers but illustrators, voice actors, sound designers, and writers, all sitting in the library on uncomfortable seats and doing their darnedest to make something that worked.

And most of them did! It was amazing to see the wide spectrum of ideas the teams came up with based on the same prompt. Different interpretations of the theme, different genres, different controllers – one could even be controlled with your voice! 

Without further ado, here are the games I worked on:

Home Time

This was the game my team produced over the weekend. I worked on the writing and the art for this.

Tiny Fins

I worked on the art for this, including designing Finn himself!

You can find the rest of the Guildford group’s games here, and they’re all worth checking out.

It was a tiring weekend but so worthwhile. Whether you’re trying to get into the industry, or you’re a hobbyist wanting to meet more game makers, if you’re wondering whether to join a game jam, the answer is yes, sign up right now! The next Global Game Jam isn’t until next January, but your local group might have more regular ones so get in touch with them.