Global Game Jam


It’s not often that you get to see the humble beginnings of the next generation of designers, programmers and artists. But here I am sitting in among, what could be, 130 of tomorrow’s games industry. The event I speak of is Game Jam, more specifically the Scottish Game Jam. This is the 5th Game Jam that Jon Sykes and many other staff members like Brian MacDonald and Romana Ramzan have supported since its inception several years ago in 2009. The site in Glasgow’s Caledonian University is one of three in the collective known as the Scottish Game Jam. Across the sites there is a total of just over 220 registered entrants.

Game Jam in its most basic form is an endurance test. A 48 hour dive into the world of gaming and most importantly an experience to remember. The weekend kicks off with some brief introductions from the judges, who range from local video game critics to some of Scotland’s successful indie games companies, and is then followed up with the keynote and the year’s theme. With each year the jammers are tasked with not only making a game within 48 hours but also ensuring it stays within the year’s theme. Hell, for the veteran jammers there is even a set of diversifiers to apply to your game for bonus points.

Some entrants show up on their own and others with a plan of attack and team to support them, but each experience is unique. The profound sense of community comes through when you realise that you are a small spec on the map of a world of gamers spread across more than 67 countries and a total 316 registered sites worldwide. It truly is a global experience, and this year is one of the biggest yet. So those lucky enough to be attending, alone or otherwise, will surely meet new friends and even forge bonds that will flourish under the pressure.

More importantly the Game Jam serves as a learning experience. It’s here that up-and-coming designers will learn crucial life lessons and start to understand their own strengths and weaknesses. They say that diamonds can only be forged under pressure and the Game Jam is all about pressure. It’s intense and it shows. There are many who choose the ‘Iron man’ route and brave the 48 hours with no sleep, a few drinks, junk food and enough energy drinks to replace the Black Sea and others who may choose to get a quick shut-eye but they are all on the same boat. When the 48 hours are up they will have their make-or-break moment.

The ability to work under pressure and self motivation are but a few of the traits picked up by those who attend the Game Jam. Many will develop socially and even pick up new skills from the word go as creativity soars from the minds of the excited entrants. Many will share their ideas and come to the realisation they weren’t quite as unique as they first thought whereas others might truly have stumbled on a unique idea.  Still, it is only the first step on a long and arduous journey. It’s key to have an understanding of just how ambitious you may be and could be an invaluable lesson to learn as abilities are tested.

For those that do more than just survive the 48 hours there are awards and prizes. This year’s winners at the Glasgow site were picked by Phil Harris and Trevor Fountain of Blazing Griffin, Romana Ramzan of Denki, Dave Thomson of Ludometrics and Tom Welsh from Calm Down Tom. The judges were tasked with picking their favourite game from several categories including Best Audio, Best Technology, Best Art, Best Design, Best Gameplay and the coveted Best Game Overall. No award was more sought after than the Best Game award, because the winner of this prestigious award would go head to head with the best game from the Dundee and Edinburgh sites in a Scottish Bafta event where the winners are decided by the public. There are also opportunities for the students who attend to submit their games for the “one to watch award” at the BAFTAs too. There is still a chance to judge for yourself as many of the games made at the Game Jam are available here.

When asked what it means to be a game jammer many people find it hard to put into words and others struggle to find enough hours in the day to tell you just how much it means to them. It’s a social experience and a life lesson for some. Over the weekend everyone grows as a person, each coming away with some form of benefit. Be it a new piece to add to a portfolio or a harsh lesson in time management. But everyone comes away with something and still have an undying passion to work in the industry. It’s where many of our future games companies will see their humble beginnings and maybe even draw up their first prototypes. Game Jams are exceptional demonstrations of how much effort a dedicated few can put in across a weekend to create something spectacular. They are the key to tomorrow’s industry and possibly the closest games industry experience students can get before entering into the industry itself. I can’t speak highly enough of the event and for all those aspiring games designers, programmers and artists it is vital that you attend at least one in your lifetime. Even if it is just to help out a little in a far more experienced group, the help is always appreciated.








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