While most of us are used to the idea of a jam session where musicians get together to play music, there is also such a thing as a game jam. Notch, of Minecraft fame is well known for participating in the Ludum Dare Competition, which is one of the more popular game jams around. This Friday (January 27th, 2012), the biggest jam of the season will commence and if you're a modder or developer you should check it out.
The Global Game Jam kicks off in New Zealand and people from over 46 countries will use the weekend (48 hours) to develop a game themed around a particular topic that has yet to be revealed.
Global Game Jam 2012 Trailer - Adam Barenblat
The emphasis of the event is on getting students, hobbyists, and even professionals together to create and the games aren't even limited to digital games. Many people use the event to meet others interested in making games and groups that mesh well commonly continue to work and refine their games outside of the event.
One such example is a game called Fade, pictured below, which originally made its debut in the Global Game Jam at the Albany, NY site where it won Most Innovative, Best Design, and Best Overall, but then went on to be developed over the course of the next year into a full game that will be released for the iPad soon.
Fade was developed on and off for the last year by Dan Sternfeld, Ben Saxe, Ian McConahey Stead, Frank Tufano, Lawrence Jung, and Kelli Nogle.
For those on the fence about jamming, we asked Dan Sternfeld, a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology his advice for new jammers and he told us, "Don't jump into an idea because you feel rushed. It is worth taking the time to experiment and start over if you find a better idea. You will learn more and most likely end up with a better game that way."
And how should people continue on a game that's been first conceived at a game jam? Well, according to Dan, it's important to remember that your game is a prototype that will most likely be hacked together. Taking a step back and throwing out everything you have but the idea can be good. Your second implementation will be much better since you can take your time and have already taken a stab at solving the unique problems of that particular game.
As with any event that continues for 48 hours straight, it's important to feed the local jammers. Curse, Inc. is doing its part to help support a local site at the Rochester Institute of Technology through funding meals for the jam, so jammers that stay up around the clock won't have to feel hungry. World wide, the global event has quite a few sponsors to help with software development (including free phones for some game jam sites from Microsoft) and if you use their products, make sure to thank them for sponsoring creativity and the game development community as a whole.
And if you either mod or develop games and have some free time this weekend, make sure to look for a local site of the global game jam and sign up. It could just lead to your next project!