I love game jams, or rather I love making a game during game jams. The adrenaline, the looming deadline, the snacks, those moments of problem solving clarity after my PC has just shut down, and the inevitable awesome new system or cool new thing I learn. I love all those things. I always learn something new and I always have some new little piece of work to show to the world and my fellow jammers, but there’s a downside for me that I’ve only recently come to understand. While the jam itself is always a fantastic experience I’ve realized I can do without almost everything that happens after the timer stops.
Maybe it’s because of the jams that I’ve chosen to do. I’ve done Ludum Dare a few times and I like doing GameJolt curated jams but only the ones that have prizes. Keep in mind I’m not bashing jams or jams with prizes. I even won passes to IndieCade East and a Show and Tell slot from a jam. It’s just that the results of the jam shouldn’t be the main takeaway and I’ve spent too much time and energy focusing on what happens after I submit my entry. The main takeaway should be that new thing I learned and all of the reusable code I put together, and the neat little game or prototype that I actually put out there for the world to see. Despite ranking 25 overall in the last Ludum Dare Compo, it didn’t seem like many people even saw my game during the voting and afterwards too. I know I didn’t look much at the games that ranked above me because I had just finished playing and ranking a bunch of games and I needed a break from jam games. When you get right down to it, LD is a vast and impersonal experience.
I’ve always been shocked at the vote counts for the smaller jams I’ve done. Jams seem to have a large number of participants that just walk away after their game is submitted. It’s hard for me to understand why you wouldn’t play every game in a jam where there are less than 30 entries. I just can’t seem to stop myself. I’ll compulsively check how many votes I’v received and I’ll play and rank as many games as I can squeeze in. This wouldn’t be such a big deal but I don’t have much time to play games, and jam games are well jam games. Most of them are either totally broken or just completely uninteresting. That’s to be expected and I don’t mean to say that I haven’t seen some amazing work and connected with some awesome people through game jams. I’ve just realized that I need a change of pace.
This brings us to One Game A Month, which I’ll be referring to as #1GAM from here on. Thanks to the awesome @McFunkyPants there’s a community online built around folks doing exactly what the name implies. Each month I’ll be making a small game, remixing an old game of mine, or making a large chunk of new content for one of my existing games, mostly Ruby & Majesty which is still my back burner baby. NOTE: Do not put a baby on a burner. This will give me more structure than “Oh this jam looks neat” and it will free me from the whole voting/results thing that ultimately messes with my head and I won’t have any of the limitations of a jam on the work I create.
I am tackling #1GAM as an iterative experience. I don’t want to work from scratch. I’ve got massive amounts of perfectly reusable code. I want to build upon my previous work. I want to remix games to try out new combinations, play with themes, and spend time focusing on what’s important to me as a developer. I don’t just want to have work to show, I want to have systems and assets to reuse and re-purpose for when I get the opportunity to make a BIG game.
I plan on making small posts about my #1GAM adventures here so stay tuned! This month I finished the first iteration of a skeletal animation system so I will be making a small prototype using that. Look out for that coming real soon.