[Cross-posted from Omiya Games blog]
Global Game Jam 2014 is just around the corner (this coming Friday, as of when this article was written), so I'm here to make a list of what you should do and shouldn't do in this wonderfully chaotic event.
Ah, great question! Global Game Jam is an event that takes place around the world where participants team up and make a game (video games, board games, and card games accepted) based on a presented theme within 48 hours. I emphasize that Global Game Jam is a social event, not a competition. Finally, I'll leave it to Kevin James Wong's excellent article on why everyone should participate in the Global Game Jam.
Now onto the list!
Time is paramount in Global Game Jam, and anything to reduce it is super-valuable. Learning how to use your tools is one excellent way to reduce the time spent on developing your games. Want to make a 3D video game? You should get started on learning Blender so you can make 3D assets. At minimum, I recommend everyone making video games to learn at least one game engine, such as Unity and GameMaker. On a similar note...
While many sites may have their own computers and craft tools to make board games and card games, I highly recommend bringing your own, anyways. This is especially critical for audio people who likes to bring their own keyboard and synthesizers. The sooner your tools are catered towards your needs, the better.
Most sites have a time period in the beginning and at the end of the event where they'll let you freely socialize with everyone who came. While most of them are going to be strangers, don't be afraid. This is the perfect time to network, make friends, and even exchange business cards (if you're into that stuff yet). Most importantly, this is a good time to gauge what you're getting into. It's good to know whether the majority of the participants are artists, musicians, programmers, game designers, students, or professionals, to better plan for what team you're going to build.
Game jams are the best places to come up with a new game idea. Plus they make great crowd pleasers. I mean, who wouldn't want to play a game about romantic zombie dinner parties, robotic microbes bent around taking over Canada, observing ice cubes melt in Zimbabwe, or existential horror on an intelligent cat on leash?
I encourage working with people you aren't familiar with just as much as people you are familiar with. The best teams are those who share the same vision for the game, rather than people who know each other well.
As mentioned before, time is at a premium. You'll want to use every hack, technique, shortcuts, illusions, and other neat tricks to make your game faster. Don't worry too much about the quality. All the games from game jams are very shoddy at best. Instead, focus on the vision, the idea you want to convey through the game.
No matter how buggy it is, you've made a huge achievement within a super-short amount of time. You should be proud, and you should show it. Show off your game, no matter how incomplete. The results may surprise you: someone is going to like it!
Everyone else is as proud of their own game as you are, and it's only respectful that you play it and critique it. This is yet another great opportunity to socialize, and more importantly, learn from other people how they made their games. Feel free to share what you like about their game, and what you didn't. Remember to always provide a reason to your opinion.
It's very tempting to skip eating and sleeping when you're working on a tight deadline, but your health should take a bigger priority. Do sleep and eat. It's a lot harder than it sounds.
As mentioned before, game jams are the best place to come up with a fresh, new idea. Don't hurt that by openly rejecting other people's ideas. That's both mean and destructive. Instead, provide a reason to why an idea may not be ideal to this situation. Be prepared to listen to any disagreements. They just might be right.
Yes, I know your favorite game is this one super-big budget console/PC game. Me too. But those games takes a very large amount of time and people (typically years), whereas you have only 48 hours. It's only logical that games of much smaller scope are more ideal for this event.
Since you'll most likely work in a team, be respectful of them and clean up after yourself. Time-saving is critical, but that is no excuse for terrible hygiene.
It's highly encouraged in many game jams to use assets online to save time. Remember, though, that you want to check if the asset is licensed for your own non-profit purposes when you take something from the internet. Even if it is, I highly recommend giving the person some credit in your game. They might thank you.
I won't lie, Global Game Jam can be very stressful. Finishing a game, though, is incredibly rewarding, one that's very difficult to describe. The ride might be hell, but trust me, it's definitely worth it.