Don’t be the game jam idea person. A guide how non-coders and non-artists can become the most important member of a team.

First of all, let me start out, that every game requires some sort of idea or plan behind it, and this is by no means denouncing the concept or practice of planning.

This is about the single, seemingly revolutionary idea with no execution behind it. Just a concept. The big idea that’s going to make you rich. And famous. I’m doing this post a little bit over a week before the Finnish Game Jam, which is a part of the Global Game Jam.  The reason behind it is, that none of you jammers should be ‘the idea guy’. By doing that, you are very likely to be the weakest link of the chain and even worse, undermining your own experience, passions and skillset.

You can’t code, fine. Nearly everyone on a jam site can, so that shouldn’t be a problem. You can’t do art or model anything, fine. There are artists present on site too. Before you start thinking that you are useless, bear in mind, that every single of the absolute worst games have two things in common. They have both graphics and code in them. Even text adventures, because typefaces are graphics. You are useless, of course, if you take the role of the idea person. However, you can make yourself the most valuable asset of the team with the following roles, which require no specialized skills. Only hard work and the harder you work, the more essential you will be in the success of the group. These are ordered by the combination of least specialized skill required and most important to hardest and least important.

  • Uploading the project files and setting up the project page on the global game jam site. Devs will be too busy to do this, and this is where many lose the final, very valuable hours.
  • Marketing in social media, setting up accounts for the game and posting them across different medias, which is absolutely essential in discoverability. Spamming like a mf, doing live streams, asking devs for screenshots and taking photos of them.
  • LUDUM DARE SPECIFIC. Playing and rating other people’s games. This will raise your game’s discoverability and grant it more ratings, pushing it up on the list. Without being discovered, you won’t get enough ratings for the jam.
  • Finding open source art and audio assets on the internet. Googling stuff. You don’t need to create all art.
  • Play testing. Play the game, give feedback how it works and how it doesn’t work.
  • Foley audio. Especially on Ludum Dare. Take your smart phone and record footstep. Edit on Audacity, or let the devs edit it.
  • Managing the team git/dropbox/source control.
  • Creating generated 3d art on tools such as Makehuman and Tree It.
  • Writing. Every game needs a script. If you have some background in writing, this is a good position to be in.
  • Music. If you play an instrument, you can do music. Record with your smart phone.

But why not be the idea person? Well. The developers will be very busy working on the idea which the team comes up, so being the idea person very likely makes you ‘that guy’ and by ‘that guy’ I mean the person who is constantly derailing and interrupting the busiest members of the team and slowing down progress while contributing absolutely nothing to the process.

Happy jamming, y’all and see you at the FGJ Vaasa next week.

2 thoughts on “Don’t be the game jam idea person. A guide how non-coders and non-artists can become the most important member of a team.”

  1. Not super flattering for sound designers to hear that if can’t do art you can always do sound 😀

    1. Sound design was a pretty hard one on this, because it is obviously very important and also very difficult, which placed it in the mid section of the list (higher for importance and lower for difficulty). Why it makes the list is because of a few reasons, first, is the relatively low entry point how to make passable content in a say, prototype or a jam game.

      The second reason is, that I am a hobbyist sound designer myself and own a somewhat adequate amount of recording equipment for a one man indie studio. Sound design is also heaviest in requiring specialized equipment. I am very, very far from a professional, though, but in most cases I’m the most experienced and skilled sound designer at my jam site, because sound designers very rarely do jams and there are at best only one present. Also mentioned in the list are music, marketing and writing which each are very high profile game development careers, but this article is written in a jam context, not a ‘forming a startup’ context.

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