Q&A: InnoGames Jam kicking off at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany

Gamasutra is a media partner at this week's 48-hour InnoGames Jam taking place at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany. We spoke with co-organizer Mena Jacobs.

Gamasutra is a media partner at this week's 48-hour InnoGames Jam taking place at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany. As it kicks off today, we speak with co-organizer Mena Jacobs (@nertro) about the jam's focus on diversity, and tips on jamming.

So the focus for this year’s InnoGames Game Jam is diversity. What led you to that?

Diversity is an important topic for us and our industry. Unfortunately, we still don't have the diversity we should have in the year 2016. The question is: How can we change that? One possibility is a game jam at the biggest games show in the world.

A game jam is a great opportunity to bring people together. When you participate in a jam you often go there to be creative and create cool games, but also to meet new people. Most of the participants won't arrive with a team, but build one at the location. So when you need someone who could make the sound, code, design or art for the game you don't care who this person is and of which background, gender, belief etc. You just work with that person and have fun together.

The Intel Diversity Fund made this idea a reality. We were not only able to make this jam happen, but also to give away travel grants to people who otherwise would not be able to afford the journey to Cologne. Now we are very glad to see that at the IG Jam we will have more than 200 participants from 27 nations, including Indonesia, South Korea, Kenya, Australia, and many more.

What are some tips you have for participating in a game jam? What about things you’ve learned as someone who runs them?

Start small and then go bigger

You should have a working prototype at the beginning of the second day latest so you can test if your game is fun and then work on it. Don't start too big, it will only get you in trouble and most likely leaves you with an unfinished game.

Get a sound girl or guy as soon as you can

There are always only a few sound experts at a game jam. Grab one as soon as you can, because they will be very busy and often jump from team to team. Don't forget how important a good sound design in games is.

Try something new

A game jam is the best opportunity to try new things. You should never just stick with your comfort zone. You should try to learn something new. Get to know new people and maybe find a new wonderful idea which could turn out to be your next major game project. Also, the games with the new ideas and technologies are often the winners of a game jam.

Eat healthy and get enough sleep

Many developers try to stay up all night and eat pizza to get as much done as possible in the shortest amount of time. Unfortunately, this doesn't work and leads to being inefficient. Most people are more productive when they get enough sleep and eat healthily. So spare a few hours for sleep and sometimes eat an apple instead of a pizza to be more productive and work faster.

Have Fun!

This is what it's all about right?

New things we've learned this time

The InnoGames Jam is the biggest Jam in Germany, but it was a new approach to invite the whole world. Dealing with different time zones and participants from 27 countries was a new experience but also great! We look forward seeing all these people from around the world contributing to the jam.

What are some ways (normal and abnormal) that you’ve seen attendees attempt to stay awake and energized during a jam?

There are the common ways like drinking enormous amounts of coffee/energy drinks, hearing very loud music (preferably chiptune with a fast pace) or sleeping for a few minutes in a very uncomfortable position. But there are also some other ways like playing some games, walking around, talking to other devs and getting fresh air.

I also heard that the best way to stay awake is going into the sauna like some people did at Nordic Game Jam. Maybe we can try something similar in Cologne this year.

What is it that makes a game stand out from other ones that are made at a game jam?

At a game jam, you have to  pinpoint your idea very fast. Also, you can't develop a huge game because there just isn't enough time. So the developers have to focus on the simple things and make them fun. Additionally, most of the team members have never met before, so everyone brings something new to the table. And of course, everyone want's to try something new. A new engine, framework, a new technology or device or even develop new peripherals for their games. These things put together boost creativity and are great catalysts to create new and special games.

What’s more important during a 48-hour game jam: cleanliness of code or personal cleanliness?

Of course, your game has to work in the end, so cleanish code is pretty important. But you also should really take care of yourself at a jam. Because if you don't, you may have a few more hours for coding etc., but if you feel like crap after the first night you probably won't work pretty good. So yeah personal cleanliness or at least something that makes you feel better like healthy food is also very important.

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