Game Jams

by Darren Torpey on May 5th, 2010

What’s a game jam?

A game jam is a short and fixed time period event where participants create games, usually in teams, from start to finish. While some game jams are structured competitively and do not require teams, at Boston Game Jams we encourage people to work in teams and to be fully cooperative and open with fellow jammers.

Game jams play off of the spirit of musician “jams”, where each artist comes with thier own tools (instruments, usually, or perhaps just their voice) and creates music improvisationally with the other artists. Game jams are similar in that each team member comes with their own unique talents and perspectives and combines those with that of their team members to create something amazing and unique — their own game. Like a band jam, a game jam is all about coming together and having a fun, improvisational team experience, not necessarily about the finished product!

Why jam?

There are many benefits to jamming and everyone has their own unique take-aways. Here are some of the most common reasons people participate in game jams:

  • experience the joy of creation
  • meet new people
  • learn more about game design and development
  • learn new tools
  • learn how to work on a tight schedule
  • learn how to be flexible in our thinking and adapt to change quickly

Who do you invite?

Anyone is welcome to come, so long as you bring your spirit of open collaboration, learning, and the desire to create!

Participants’ backgrounds include visual art, audio, production, design, writing, and programmeing. You do not need to have a background in game development to come to a jam. We form teams so that each person’s strenghts can be complimented by those of their teammates. This means that typically only one or two people on a team (which are usually 3-5 people) need to have experience with game development and/or game jams.

What’s more, participants are encouraged to bring a friend who has not been to a game jam before and mentor them through the process. It’s always good to see new faces!

What kinds of games do you make?

There are no restrictions on the types of games you can make, and even products that would better be described as “interactive art” than “games” are perfectly good fodder for a game jam.

At past events, games have been made for mobile devices, browsers, and PC/Mac download, using technology as diverse as Flash, Python, C++, pure Javascript/HTML5, Java, Unity 3D and more. We even have jammers taking on the interactive fiction style of games at the jams now!

In the next year we plan to expand into card and board-based games to further expand the breadth of game styles we work with at the jams. Having a broad spectrum helps keep creativity flowing freely and keeps the events feeling fresh.

Who runs them?

All of the jams are now hosted by me, Darren Torpey, but often I have a co-host who helps with publicity, event design, coordination, and legwork. The first two “Boston Game Jams” (informally named “DINO Jams” after the company that provided the space) were run by Emily Daniels. Immigration Jam was co-hosted by Alex Schwartz.

When are they held?

We’ve been running a jam roughly once every 10 weeks, on average, for the past year. This is by no means a rule, however. Our motto is “strike while the iron is hot” — so we hold them when we think the timing is right and when a theme is inspired by coordination with another event, such as how our Lunar Jam was coordinated along with SHIFTboston’s Moon Capital competition in 2010.

So far, our jams have always been held during a single weekend, from Saturday morning through Sunday evening.

How can I learn more?

If you’d like to know more about Boston Game Jams or to find out when the next event is, subscribe to this blog via email using the widget on the right-hand sidebar and sign up for our Google Group, which we use to announce each event.

You can also email me: darren ___AT___ bostongamejams DOTCOM

What events have you held?

Here are all the game jams we’ve held plus upcoming events: