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Diary of a Game Jammer

Sleeping man

The weekend of the 24th to the 26th of January was the Global Game Jam – an event where over 23,000 people around the world commit to making games in 48 hours.

What actually happens in a game jam though? Surely it’s not that hard to make a game? Click through to find out what it’s like.

Friday

17:30: Utter panic. I’m late already. What happens if I miss the theme announcement? I won’t have time for meeting new people and forming a team. Crap. Not a good start.

18:30: Still panicking, I burst into the venue carrying my monster rig under one arm and my tablet and snacks all under the other. The room is filled with pale people laughing at nerdy jokes.

18:45: A colourful hat with a man attached steps up again and plays the theme video. As it’s revealed my brain begins to scramble and motor for inspiration. I must have some idea. But what can you really make with that theme?

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20:30: A few hours later, we’ve got food in our bellies and the formal game idea discussion has begun. After my ideas are critiqued as being too big, I spend the rest of the time listening to brilliant people talking about their brilliant ideas. How depressing.

 21:30: Starting to feel excited. I find a team to work on an idea with me and they’re all keen to get going.

23:30: We make a list of things the game absolutely needs to have. It looks a bit long. We head home. Some dig in to stay on a while longer.

Saturday

9:30: Feeling a bit tired, but the triple shots of coffee shake the feeling from my body. Arriving at the venue, I see some of my team waiting and the jammers who stayed over looking like members of the undead. Walking past I ask, “Long night?” The reply is a long moan, which confirms my fantastical suspicions.

Don't wake the jammers... ever.

Don’t wake the jammers… ever.

11:30: Frustration – we end up having to wait for one last jam member to arrive, as we need to make a critical design decision before we begin working. Luckily, someone has brought an Oculus Rift that serves as ample distraction.

13:30: Anxious. Upon the last member’s arrival we make the design decision and get down to work. A couple hours later and we only have a few things crossed off our list of things to do.

15:00: Focused. A long-haired dude who speaks in a slow, stilted manner asks if we need any music for our game. The group shrugs and I’m left to try explain. “Uhh yeah… we’re going for like a… umm. You know that one movie that did well recently? With Brad… Brad whatever his name. Yeah we’re going for something like that.”

17:30: Feeling concerned… Our artist left for a metal concert a few hours earlier, leaving us with only a few pieces of art. Between the coders we’ve managed to, with much difficulty, implement a stick man that can move around the room with broken collision detection that has him floating through walls randomly.

Elated that it works, sad that it sucks.

Elated that it works, sad that it sucks.

19:00: Queasy… We return back from a greasy dinner – I can almost feel my kidneys dying. Maybe they were right about the greasy food, we’ve had some breakthrough ideas to make the game just slightly more fun.

20:30: Confused relief. The music guy sends through a track – it fits perfectly with the game’s idea. I have no idea how he did it. Music people are obviously accustomed to extracting sense out of mumbling game jammers.

24:00: Hope. The game is starting to come together like we planned. We’ve got one last feature to code before we can begin polishing. The other coder and I commit to only leaving when a specific feature is implemented.

Sunday

2:00: Just one niggling bug that we can’t seem to squash. We want to find it before we leave. That way we can focus on polishing the game tomorrow… I mean… today. Is that really the time?

5:05: Half asleep, half awake, fully exhausted, but we found and fixed the bug! We see the sun starting to rise. Hmm… time to head home I guess?

11:30: Confusion. I’m back at the jam venue… did I ever actually leave? How did I get home? No idea. Trying to code, keep writing words from conversations I hear around me. Got to keep coding until the blue thing stays blue.

When you start seeing your artists wearing elephant hats, it's probably time for everyone to go home.

When you start seeing your artists wearing elephant hats, it’s probably time for everyone to go home.

13:00: Blue thing stays blue. Art and animation in. The testers say they need more feedback. On that now. People around the room are breaking into random, thoughtless song many harmonize with them. Is this really happening?

14:30: Forgot sound effects. One person is on that now. It’s all blending together now – the code, art, sound – even your mind seems to be becoming part of the game. Focused exhaustion.

14:55: Starting to implement the sounds. I must’ve heard the music track hundreds of times now. Can’t tell whether I always hated it or if it was just my mind turning on me. Crap, we still need a menu.

15:00: Elation grows within me. Our game is done. Time to upload. We start writing up a description of the game.

Wow it works? And it's not completely terrible? How did that happen?

Wow, it works? And it’s not completely terrible? How did that happen?

16:45: Utter panic. I’ve tried to submit tens of times, but the Global Game Jam site keeps timing out. I’ve got the game’s description copied into a text file for when I have to start again.

16:55: It’s in. WE DID IT. We finished a game in 48 hours. A presentation of everyones’ games ensues, the raucous applause from everyone shows people value the finishing of the game much more than its final quality.

Bro fist me! In my face! Because that's how happy I am!

Bro fist me! In my face! Because that’s how happy I am!

17:30: Exhausted happiness. It’s in. It’s over. We did it. How? Don’t ask. Why? No one’s quite sure.

I turn to walk out the now very smelly venue for the last time. One of my team members shouts to me, “Next game jam is in three months, see you then?”

I’m exhausted, tired, completely wrecked – my body tells me that you could never handle something like this again.

I smirk and shout back, “See you in three months.”

See some of the best local games to come out of the GGJ here.

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  • Pulseofthe Maggot

    Beautiful :D

    • Ben Myres

      Thanks! :D So you’ll be joining us in the next game jam then? :P

      • Pulseofthe Maggot

        I’m more inclined to do concept art and the such, so until I learn how to code I’m just going to appreciate all the fine talent around

        • David Weatherhead

          Artists are always needed at game jams! :P
          My team could’ve really done with an artist to make everything look all pretty, while we finished up all the problems.

          • Ben Myres

            Really, what he said ^^.

            Programmer art is pretty unattractive :p. Just someone nearby with any sense of color schemes would help out greatly :P.

          • Pulseofthe Maggot

            hahahaha a’ight guys, I’m convinced

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