A New Kind of Game Jam

Recently I got into a long discussion with my good friend (and awesome audio engineer) David Manuel about what could be done to encourage innovation in today’s games industry. Companies tend to stick with what they know in order to keep their employees in a job and their balance sheet in the positive, even if this means being unable to consider taking (even calculated) risks. Doing so has the inevitable effect of stifling innovation within the sector and breeding same-old products, which in turn discourages further investment.

Ultimately, companies and small independent teams alike need the freedom to experiment with new ideas. The solution needs to capitalise on the creation of original concepts while still being low risk to the company’s time. By the same token, it should also encourage collaboration, testing and feedback within the industry and gaming community in order to maximise promotion and participation.

So here’s the idea:

“Incubator Jam”

A game jam that you’re used to, designed to encourage innovation while ensuring that content rights stay with development teams.

Not a competition

This one is important and sets the precedent for all other rules. There is no leaderboard and submissions are not judged. Independent outlets may choose to do so, but this is far from the point of the jam.

No themes

This jam is for developers that want to try out new ideas that they’ve been saving up for a rainy day, so themes aren’t used.

Held across a week

In the interest of minimising stress conditions and fitting in time between work hours, the jam is held across a week. You declare that you will be starting on day X and your time will finish a week later, where you should release your prototype for public availability. This time is not held globally, so different companies and teams may start on different days. This allows for companies and independent developers with outside responsibilities to properly schedule their own allocated jam time as they see fit.

Not location restrictive

You do not have to register a location for the jam and teams are encouraged to set up wherever they feel most comfortable.

Centralised updates and management

There will be a centralised blog where updates will be fed through (either by members of the teams themselves or by the site owner). This will ensure that the development process of all teams will be available for everyone to view and give feedback in one place. Basic promotional materials are expected to be posted here (images, videos, game description) and demos/source code are encouraged but optional.

Does not have to be open-sourced

Developers will have tools that they are at their most productive using, but may not necessarily be allowed under license to distribute the tools or source code freely. To encourage teams to use whatever they are most comfortable with (in order to create a prototype in the most time-efficient way possible), teams do not have to submit any code or tools whatsoever. Submitting code to an open-source outlet and stating which tools you used are encouraged but optional. Again, it’s not a competition so you can’t cheat.

Meanwhile, Jamming 4 Small Change is just about to wrap up at Glasgow Caledonian University Scotland, where a bunch of teams are developing game prototypes to help dementia patients with their treatments in new, creative ways. Develop Online has given a full comprehensive write-up on the jam, and it’s fantastic to see so many developers giving up their free time to help make games for the greater good.