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The Game Jam Suvival Guide

Are you about to attend a Game Jam? Maybe you should hear what one of the Global Game Jam site organizers has to say about getting the most out of your experience!

Vasileios Karavasilis

February 1, 2016

8 Min Read

[As posted on The Way of the Indie Game Developer]

Here we are again! Today is one of the most important dates of the year for us game developers! The Global Game Jam is upon us! Well maybe I went a little overboard there, but it really is an exciting day for many people in our community!

This year me and the lads at eNVy softworks have the honor of organizing the Global Game Jam here, at Patras Greece. This year the GGJ will have between 30000 and 40000 participants from 635 sites all over the world. Those numbers are just mind-blowing to me! Being part in something so immensely huge really gives me a sense of wonder!

So if you are reading this, chances are you are one of those 30 to 40 thousand participants! If not, no worries! Registration on most sites are still open! If you want to participate in the site I am running just register here or show up at P-Space tomorrow before 18:30 GMT+2 (local time)! If you just want to have a look of what we are doing, we will be streaming most of the event here! In any case knowledge on how to maximize your chances of getting through a game jam with a completed game can always prove useful!


As a survivor of one 72hour and two 50hour game jams as well as a few 24hour hackathons I think I have picked up one thing or two concerning sleep and lack thereof. Let me level with you. 24 hours with no sleep are possible; more than that is an extremely bad idea.

The more time you spent awake the more stressed your body and brain become. After a while you won't be able to think straight. On a typical 48 hour game jam I find it best to sleep at nights, somewhere between 3 and 5 hours. That is a total of 6-10 hours of sleep in a two-night scenario. It is enough time for your brain to process all excess information and relax. At the same time sleep will not feel like a waste of precious development time. On a jam that is longer than 2 days I strongly advice normal 8 hour sleep sessions.

Staying Awake 

Now you know when to sleep, but how do you stay awake during those long development hours? This part can vary from person to person but I will talk about what generally works for most people. Two of the most common ways to stay awake are energy drinks and coffee! Most venues will offer easy access to both of those alternatives for participants. I suggest you drink those before starting to feel sleepy because otherwise they may have no effect on you. In any case you should regulate your usage of them to recommended quantities! Another way to stay awake is to be in constant conversation with you team. Try discussing your project as much as possible during development to keep your mind busy even during the more mundane parts of your work. Finally the work itself will keep you going. If you really enjoy what you do, your brain is not too likely to stop! Oh and under no circumstances drink alcohol!

Keeping Yourself Nourished and Hydrated

There is not much to say here. Have a good meal whenever you would normally have one. Your brain does burn calories when it works under pressure, so be sure to replenish those. Snacks can be a good way to keep your calorie intake high during development without costing you work-time. Still at least two REAL meals a day are a necessity. Remember not to overdo it when eating. Too much food will slow you down; just keep it at your normal levels and you will be alright.

The same does not go for water. Drink all the water you can. Always have a full bottle by your side at all times. It is really easy to get dehydrated and you do not want that to happen, believe me!


Sitting does you no good. Stand up once in a while, I find every half hour to be a good interval to do so. Stretch a bit, maybe even take a walk. Your body must be kept in top shape if you want it to keep on coding or drawing or composing for more than it usually does. Walks can also be a great reason for you to see what the people around you are building!

Be Polite

A little kindness goes a long way. If you are attending a game jam for the first time it is easy to forget you will be spending the next few days with the people around you. Be kind to them, and don't be rude. You don't want someone with a grudge working right behind you. Same goes for your attitude towards us; organizers. In most game jams the organizers are volunteers that are there to help you and make your experience as enjoyable as possible. So be polite to them and be patient, there may be other people that require their attention as well. Don't be the guy that keeps calling the flight attendant every five seconds to complain!


Look I get it, you have your team and you want to rely on your own skills to complete your game but sometimes that may not be enough. Game jams are supposed to be about innovation, sharing knowledge and cooperation. You may be in the same room as some of the brightest brains of your discipline in your country, if not the world. If they offer their help, which I find they usually tend to do, accept it. Don't be proud. You are here to learn! I've leaned some of my most important skills while participating in game jams thanks to people that are better than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you get stuck and give any help you can to those who need it. The room will be full of developers that are better than you in some areas but you may know more than they do in others! Share the knowledge! Sharing a code snippet or a graphical asset is not a crime. Our goal is to advance game development by creating as many high quality games as possible. Why not use all the tools in our disposal?

Set Realistic Expectations

Just act like the game you are going to make is your first game. Actually think even lower than that. If you want to have a "finished" game by the end of the game jam you should manage your time carefully. If you have 48 hours to do it, decide on a game that needs 24 hours to be made. Give yourself time to rest, eat and polish all the finer details. Most game jams will allow for a 5 minute presentation at the end of the jam. Keep that in mind and build around that presentation. It is better to have 5 minutes of beautiful, well-polished material than an hour of incomplete, poorly executed ideas. Only then will the brilliance of your creation truly shine!


Do you know what is the main reason I love game jams? The opportunity to try things I would not otherwise even consider. Live a little! Unicorn destroying national monuments? Sounds cool! A kiwi bird making sacrifices to a Mayan Sun-God? Why not?

Go crazy! Brilliance is hidden in the most unlikely of places. Don't be shy and try out whatever crazy idea you feel would make a good experience! Be the mad scientist you were always meant to be!

Have Fun

What can I say? I love cliches... It's true though. If you are not having fun, you should not do it at all. Spend time doing what feels best for you! Do you want to network? Meet people! Talk to them about everything and anything! Do you enjoy watching other teams work more than coding another character controller? Fine do that! Are you bored of making another 2D platformer? Well, take a long shot and make something you have no idea how to make!


For me that is what the Global Game Jam and, in a sense, all game jams are about... Not winning prices, or glory. Not making the best, or the most beautiful, or most clever game. It should be about us. It should be about creativity and imagination. It should be about self-improvement and impossible dreams. It should be about joining hands with all those people that really love and care about what you too love and care about and write the next page of the history of our craft. Take a moment and consider who we are. We are artists and we are scientists. We are philosophers and we are mathematicians. We are the mainstream and we are the underground. In just a few decades we have managed to bring together so many different types of people and share our vision with the whole wide world. Game jams are way more than just a gathering of developers or a competition. For me game jams are a reminder of what we accomplished so far and how much more we can accomplish as long as we keep on cooperating, innovating and experimenting. We are the dreamers of impossible dreams, but unlike the rest of the world we have the power to make those dreams come true! So what do you say? Shall we take game development one step further this year?

For the next three days you know where to find me! Stay focused!


If you want to support eNVy softworks as well as make it easier for me to continue writing these articles you can become our patron via Patreon, by donating a small amount per month! It's a win win situation! We continue doing what we love, you get cool stuff! What could possibly go wrong?

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