This blog post should be seen as a guideline of what in my and Dinesh's experience are good and bad things to do while participating in a game jam. (Fun Fact: We met the first time at the VRBLN VR Hackathon 😎)
In general, participate in as many Game Jams and hackathons as possible. There was not a single event where I had no fun, didn't meet any cool people, encountered future job opportunities and in the end, even met very good friends.
When I first arrived at my first hackathon. I was like building castles in the sky. I will create this feature, and I will create this awesome model and this awesome mechanic and everything will look sooooo awesome. In the end most of the time you achieve very little in those small time spans, especially if you are new. So my most valuable tip is:
Small small and simple simple!
This means thinking about 1 to 2 mechanics and trying to make them as good as possible and then building an experience around those. In the end, I achieved the best results when I stuck to the simplest mechanics and implemented and applied them consistently and beautifully.
One main reason to participate in jam is to meet new people. Scout the best-fitting people for you. Sometimes it is quite okay to be a little bit egoistic and search for people who can lift you up so you can learn a lot. If you are part of the already pretty well-taught people, find someone you can lift up.
In general, the chemistry has to be right between the team, because in the heat of the moment everyone's nerves can be on the edge, and coupled with sleep deprivation, it can put a lot of social stress on you, that's why you should:
I put so much emphasis on keeping it simple earlier because a simple mechanic that is fun, is enough for good gameplay. But can achieve so much more, with little effort. Add some sounds, add some background noise, add some particle systems and VFX effects. Add a nice skybox and tweak the post-processing to the perfect mood:
A lot of small measures combined can make a big difference!
Keep in mind the event is about making connections, learning something new, and having fun. Don't get me wrong, you should also work hard. But just as important as doing your best and working hard is having fun, getting to know the mentors, organizers, and other participants, and socializing.
Doing this will expand your horizon and give you an idea of the range of possibilities that can be achieved in the span of one jam session and shows you where you fit on that span.
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