Game Journo Game Jam – FAQ

by Scott Nichols

What is the Game Journo Game Jam?

Game Journo Game Jam, or GJx2, is a game jam for people who want to attempt making a quick and crazy game, but wouldn’t be able to participate in a normal game jam for any number of reasons. Scheduling conflicts and lack of development experience typically being chief among those reasons, but there are plenty others out there. The idea is to make a game, either on your own or with a team of your own choosing, during the month of May. Think of it as a “My First Game Jam” sort of event, preparing its participants so that some day they could join one of the more hardcore game jams.

A whole month? Aren’t game jams normally just over a weekend?

Yes, typically game jams occur over a ridiculously short period of time to offer a challenge to developers. GJx2 isn’t for developers. The people who will get the most out of GJx2 probably haven’t ever made a game before, or have very limited experience. It will likely take a week or two just to figure out the right tools to use and how to use them properly, skills that an experienced developer would already bring with them into a game jam. Also there is the matter of scheduling conflicts. In my freelance experience there’s no such thing as a weekend off, or a 48 hour period of time I can set aside from work to do a game jam non-stop. So the Game Journo Game Jam was created with that kind of crazy schedule in mind. Rather than pump out a game over a weekend, it’ll most likely cater to more of a stop and go development cycle.

I’ve already got a great idea for a game but no skills to make it! Can I use that idea for GJx2 even though I came up with it before May?

Yes! The way game jams typically work is for developers to only come up with their game concept once the jam has started. This is because the developers already have the skills and knowledge of how to make a game, so the real challenge is in coming up with and executing an idea on a short time frame. GJx2 is the exact opposite. There’s a good chance you already have an idea for a game you want to execute, but it’s during the course of GJx2 that you’ll acquire the skills to actually do so. So by all means, use the time before GJx2 to come up with your game idea. Just keep in mind that the idea may change once you start learning about the tools you’ll be using.

Wait, part of the GJ in GJx2 stands for “game journo”? I’m not a games journalist/writer/critic, can I still join?

Of course! The original idea for this game jam was for any amateur/aspiring game creator to have a more beginner-friendly outlet. As it turned out, when discussing that idea on Twitter, most of the people interested were game journalists. And since game journalist and game jam both begin with GJ, I thought GJx2 was a catchy name. So yes, feel free to ignore my vain attempt to sound clever and join the game jam even if you don’t write about games. I’d love for some gaming PR or community manager types to get involved, for example.

Is there a theme for GJx2?

Most game jams have a theme to help direct the game ideas. This goes back to the point about game jams typically being a test of executing an idea spur of the moment, so themes ensure that developers don’t come up with their concept before the theme is revealed. I hadn’t planned on there being a theme for the Game Journo Game Jam, since participants are encouraged to come up with their ideas before the jam starts. GJx2 is really more about learning how to make a game, and my theory is that people will be more motivated to keep going if it’s fully their own idea. However, sometimes such an open-ended assignment can be even more daunting, so I will provide a theme once the game jam starts for those who want one. You won’t be required to follow the theme, but it will be there if you’re strapped for ideas and need a starting point.

I’m a game journalist and would like to participate, is it ethical to still cover the game jam?

Yes, depending on how it is done. You should disclose in any writing about GJx2 that you are/were a participant, and you should discuss with your editors how they want it to be handled. One writer has told me he will be doing a weekly column of his game’s progress during the game jam, and this could be an excellent opportunity to do a postmortem article after it’s all done. Using your writing as PR for your game is an obvious no-no.

I’m an experienced developer and would still like to participate in GJx2 because this sounds cool and different/I am hopelessly addicted to game jams. Can I still join or take part in some way?

Sure! I imagine completing a game in a month would still offer its own challenges for an experienced developer, and would allow you to explore ideas a little further than a 2-day game jam would normally allow. Also, if you want to join as an experienced developer, it would be greatly appreciated if you could be active in our Google Group and help other participants work through their development difficulties. That would be awesome, so yes, please join in.

What if I don’t complete my game before the end of May?

Then you get thrown into a volcano. Seriously though, can’t finish? No big deal! Making a game is hard and you’ve got other stuff to do, I’d be surprised if half of the entrants produce something from GJx2, myself included. The point is that you tried, and hopefully had fun and learned something in the process. Having something finished to show for it at the end is just a bonus. That isn’t to say you should go into GJx2 expecting that you won’t finish, but fear of finishing shouldn’t stop you from joining. But if you don’t finish something in time, you may not be eligible for the IGF Press Pirate Kart…

Got more questions? Ask away in the comments and be sure to join the Game Journo Game Jam group to be a part of all GJx2 discussions.