The point of gamejams.

I read Emma Mulqueeny's post on the point of hackdays this morning, and have A Response:

No, it's even better than that. I've attended game jams where you have to pay to cover costs. Ones held in cafes. There's no sponsor hoping you'll look at thier APIs. Half of the developers are starving students. It's always worth going - just to get together with your peers and make things. I make games for a living, and it's never as much fun as a jam. There's often no presentation at the end, no formal series of pitches to define the teams and end results. To some degree, people just sit down and start making. And similar things hold - you need to 10 to get a buzz, and 20 to make it really good. And if we pay for pizza ourselves, or if we go out to the cafe down the road, it's still as good (though, y'know, not that I'd turn down free pizza). And there's still the rush of "gotta get this done, gotta code this bit up" and there's still the glorious praying that this bit isn't full of bugs. And sometimes you get stuck on this obvious bit, arg, why are my collisions failing! and fail to complete. It's okay, it wouldn't be as good if there was a risk of failure. Sometimes too, people get even more hardcore, and have three-hour mini-jams within the main jam, and then the rush is even better (though the games are worse). And sometimes there's no theme, or there's a choice of theme, or the themes are picked at random out of a hat of suggestions. Still, you work hard to make something good to show your friends and your peers. And sure, who you meet is good, but if I went home from a jam having made no useful contacts, I could still consider it a success. And it can be a good time to learn new tools, sure (picture someone trying a new library coincidentally sat next to the author of that library), but it's also a good time to be using tools that you know inside and out (and discovering that - hey, I really can code this stuff!). And it's good to code without time to fuck around refactoring it and tidying it, and worrying about maintainability, because it just has to last til the end of the weekend, and then done! And it's not about the game you take away, though many fine games have their roots in game jams. You make a prototype, and "hey, this gameplay is fun!", and that might keep you going on it after, or it might not. It's a gift if it happens, and if it doesn't, that's fine. (I wrote this in preference to working on a port of a game I first made at a game jam.) And I'm not a fan of prizes because who doesn't deserve one?

I guess, at the end of the day:

It feels good to work hard

And it feels better when you're surrounded by other people doing the same, and out of the joy of the work. It feels good to break new ground. It feels good to create!

21 June 2011