Game jams are events where developers get together to build quick, playable game prototypes from scratch based on a common theme or technology. Jams provide a place for game devs to showcase their talent and creativity. It allows them to experiment with new ideas, explore different genres, and test their skills. Jams also enable networking opportunities, as game devs can connect with like-minded individuals from the game development community. Today, we’re exploring how to host a game jam that’s super fun!
Since game jams can be held as in-person meetups or as online virtual events, our guide covers both format options. Naturally, feel free to change things up for your own game jam.
- Choose a Theme
- Define the Rules
- Select a Time Frame
- Select A Venue To Host Your Game Jam
- Create a Dedicated Website or Page
- Set up Registration
- Establish Communication Channels
- Promote the Game Jam
- Provide Resources
- Organize Equipment
- Encourage Collaboration and Networking
- Build Anticipation
- Host Virtual Check-ins or Events
- Provide Food and Beverages
- Set Up Judging and Prizes
- Celebrate and Showcase the Games
- Collect Feedback and Improve
Choose a Theme
Start by deciding on a unique and engaging theme for your game jam. The theme can be a specific game genre, a concept, a mechanic, a specific asset, or even a sentence. A great way to get ideas is to ask for suggestions from the people who will be attending your game jam. The aim is to inspire participants and spark creativity. Having an open-ended creative prompt is part of the challenge of the event. We want to see new game ideas, after all!
Define the Rules
Clearly state what is allowed and what is not. This could include rules about team size, use of pre-made assets, game development tools to be used, submission deadline window, etc. Make sure to also clearly define the judging criteria, if any.
Select a Time Frame
Choose a suitable duration and start date for your game jam. It could range from a weekend to a week or even a month, depending on the complexity you want to encourage.
Select A Venue To Host Your Game Jam
For in-person game jams, the choice of venue is very important. It should be spacious enough to accommodate everyone, have a good internet connection, and have ample power outlets for jammers to plug in their equipment. Depending on the duration, consider access to food, drink and rest areas as well.
Create a Dedicated Website or Page
Set up a webpage where people can find all information about the jam: the theme, rules, time frame, registration information, and any resources or support you’re providing. Platforms like itch.io are popular for hosting game jam pages.
Set up Registration
Decide whether participants need to register or if they can simply submit their games when ready. An online form can be a simple way to handle registration. If you’re hosting a virtual event on itch.io, your game jam page provides a button which people can press to register, so they will know when the jam starts.
Establish Communication Channels
Set up a way for jammers to communicate with you and each other. This could be a dedicated Discord server, a Slack workspace, a forum for virtual events, or a shared physical space for announcements and discussions in an in-person event.
Promote the Game Jam
Use social media, Discord, community forums, and your personal network to spread the word about the jam. The more people know about it, the more exciting it will be.
If you’re looking for the best Discord servers for game developers, check out our recent article: 20 Must-Join Discords for Indie Game Dev Success.
Make the game jam more accessible by providing a list of resources. These could include free game development tools, assets, tutorials, etc.
For in-person jams, ensure that there is enough hardware and software available for everyone. You can either ask attendees to bring their own or provide it at the venue. Try to think of everything developers could need, such as access for people to plugin their tech, spare batteries for game controllers, chairs and desks for teams to work from.
Encourage Collaboration and Networking
Foster an environment that encourages everyone to collaborate and share ideas. This can be done through your chosen communication channel or via structured networking sessions in an in-person event. For physical meetups, it’s your role as the organiser to engage with people and help them find teams.
For in-person or virtual events, build anticipation by reaching out via email to everyone who’s signed up for your jam, reminding them and letting them know what to expect. I’d recommend doing it at regular intervals, e.g. one month before, one week before, the day before and on the day.
Part of the excitement of game jams for creators is discovering the theme of the jam. You can keep the suspense going by making a reveal video and using YouTube’s premier to schedule it for the time the jam starts. This way, everyone finds out at the same time.
Host Virtual Check-ins or Events
For virtual game jams, to increase the fun and maintain engagement, host regular check-ins or mini-events during the jam. This could be as simple as a daily discussion thread or something more structured like a live Q&A session or workshop.
Provide Food and Beverages
For an in-person event, arrange for food and drinks to keep the participants fueled. This could be catered, or you could simply provide a space for people to bring their own food. Many in-person events charge a small entrance fee to help cover venue hire and food.
Set Up Judging and Prizes
Decide whether you want the jam to be competitive or not. If yes, organize a method for judging entries and consider offering prizes to the winners. Prizes don’t have to be expensive and can be as simple as featuring the winners on your website.
Celebrate and Showcase the Games
At the end of the jam, provide a platform to showcase the games. This could be a live stream, a showcase on your website, or a public voting system for a “People’s Choice” award. For virtual jams, itch.io does a great job of providing this functionality. Physical meetups often hold a play session after the jam or game night, giving people a chance to play the new games.
Collect Feedback and Improve
After the game jam, seek feedback by asking game developers who participated what they liked and what could be improved. This will help you in hosting better game jams in the future.
Running a game jam is a lot of work, where organization is key, but it’s also a rewarding experience. Remember, whether you’re hosting a virtual or in-person game jam, the main goal is to create a fun, inclusive, and inspiring event that encourages creativity and learning. Happy hosting!
itch.io is a popular platform for hosting and sharing games. It provides features to host game jams, publish games, and connect with a community of game developers.
No, you don’t need to have a game development studio to host a game jam. Anyone can host, regardless of whether they are part of a studio or not. Jams are often hosted by a handful of solo indie developers.
The difference between a Hackathon and a Game Jam is their primary focus and outcome. A Hackathon is a collaborative event aimed at solving specific problems or challenges. In contrast, a Game Jam revolves around the goal of working together to design and build a video game based on a given theme within a set timeframe. For a deeper dive into this topic, check out our article Hackathon vs Game Jam: What’s the difference?