Everywhere you look on the internet, on whatever social network, forum, or blogging platform you choose to use, you will see an unending legion of indies, hobbyists, and students jamming about one topic or another, with sometimes inhuman time constraints. Why do they do this? Why are game jams everywhere? Is it too much?
I don't think so. Becoming less of a niche subject ever day, games are expanding as both an industry and an artform. With the wonders of modern technology, literally ANYONE who dedicates enough time to their craft can make a game - with or without programming knowledge. This leads to both a TON of unpolished games by beginners and a TON of interesting ideas and perspectives we never would have had otherwise. Game jams are catalysts that increase the output of small, rapidly developed prototypes twenty-fold bringing both the good and bad with the flood of new games being made with each event.
The argument has been made that jams encourage and promote the development of uninspired, half-hearted efforts that flood the market and depreciate the value of games as a whole, but indie games in particular. To some extent, I do agree with that statement. When you consider the fact that most of these jams take place in time frames that would have made game developers from the late '80s and early '90s laugh hysterically in disbelief, it's actually hard to believe that playable, interesting, and awesome experiences could ever come out of those circumstances... But the simple fact of the matter is that they do. Game jams are what indie developers like Vlambeer and Dennaton cut their teeth on.
There's also the potential social aspect of joining a game jam as well. Taking part ensures that you have an audience and networking opportunities, both of which are extremely valuable to moving forward with your games. Some newer events are starting to make use of social networks and social tools to bring the development communities and players together as well - one example being the competition I'm running (#64DSC) this month.
But when it comes to making games, the only way to get better is to make games. It's an endless cycle of trial and error or trial and success. So, if you have an awesome idea and want to see it to fruition or you just need jams and competitions to push you to make things... just do it.
Stop procrastinating. Stop making excuses. Stop talking about ideas - execute them. And if you need the motivation of a game jam to do that, that's absolutely fine. Just stop wasting time.
Go make games.