Game Jam FAQs

  1. What’s a Game Jam?
  2. How often do Game Jams happen?
  3. What is the schedule of a Game Jam?
  4. Where do Game Jams happen?
  5. Who can go to a Game Jam?
  6. How are groups decided? What are the limits on group size?
  7. Do I have to bring my own computer?
  8. Do I have to stay at the jam site the whole time?
  9. What if we don’t finish our game by the time the jam is over?
  10. What tools/platforms/software can we use?
  11. Do all assets need to be original?
  12. Can I make a board game or a card game instead?
  13. Can I sleep at the game jam location?
  14. Is food or drink provided?
  15. Is it a competition?
  16. How does judging work?
  17. Can I work on an existing project instead?


What’s a Game Jam?

Very generally speaking, a game jam is a group event where people meet, form teams, and together they try to make a playable game within a certain time limit. In our case, the time limit is usually 48 hours, and the jam itself takes place over a weekend (Friday – Sunday). Most of the time, jams are centered around themes, which are words or small phrases used as a launch point for brainstorming gameplay/content. Examples of past themes include “extinction,” “evolution” and “motherhood.”


How often do Game Jams happen?

There’s no set schedule, but Game Jams here in Phoenix tend to happen once every 2-3 months. We announce game jams on this site and through our meetings, but you can also find out about them by following the UAT Game Jam group on Facebook.


What is the schedule of a Game Jam?

Assuming the usual 48-hour weekend jams, the schedule goes something like this:

  • Friday evening: We meet at UAT. This is the time for equipment set-up, brainstorming, getting to know people, etc. If you want to work with other people, you can pitch ideas and form teams. You can start working on the game as soon as you’re ready, but generally…
  • Saturday until Sunday evening: is JAMMING TIME! Work with your team to make your game happen!
  • Sunday evening: Wrap-up and presentation time! This is when people can demonstrate what they’ve been working on for the weekend. If there’s judging, this is also when the judging and award competitions happen.


Where do Game Jams happen?

Game jams usually take place at University of Advancing Technology (UAT) in Tempe. Teams may work in classrooms, the open “pit” area, or offsite. Details can be found on our directions page.


Who can go to a Game Jam?

Everybody! This is regardless of age or skill level. You don’t have to have an official IGDA membership, you don’t need to be a student at UAT, and you don’t need to pay anything to be there. Anyone with a passion for making games is welcome.


How are groups decided? What are the limits on group size?

Groups are usually formed on Friday evening. The groups can be of any size, although harder groups can be harder to manage. The best work tends to come from groups of 2-4 members. You can also work solo if you want!

If you’re doing another competition like Ludum Dare, there might be additional group restrictions (Ludum Dare, for example, accepts submissions from solo developers only).


Do I have to bring my own computer?

When jams are held at UAT, everyone has access to UAT computers and software. You have the option to bring your own computer and hook it up if you’d prefer.


Do I have to stay at the jam site the whole time?

Nope! Jammers are free to work offsite at any time, and you are free to work with people remotely as well. If possible, we prefer that group members are present at the jam site for the beginning and end of the jam. (Games usually don’t qualify for competition if the group isn’t present at the end).


What if we don’t finish our game by the time the jam is over?

No worries! There’s no penalty for not having a finished game by Sunday evening, though it won’t be eligible for competition if it isn’t playable. Hopefully you learned something about the scope of 48-hour games!


What tools/platforms/software can we use?

You can use anything you want. Popular choices include Unity, GameMaker and Flash, but anything goes, including self-developed frameworks or engines.


Do all assets need to be original?

If you’re planning to compete in a jam or market your game for commercial use, all assets should be original or at least licensed for public/commercial use. The most commonly borrowed assets are sound and music. If you’re entering in a competition, you’re required to make the organizers aware of all non-original assets.


Can I make a board game or a card game instead?

Absolutely! We welcome games of all kinds.


Can I sleep at the game jam location?

There are no beds, but you are free to bring a pillow and blanket and nap in jam space if you want to keep rolling on your game. Please just be respectful and realize that people are trying to work!


Is food or drink provided?

Meals are not provided, but snacks and drinks are available: sometimes free for jammers, sometimes in vending machines. At UAT there’s a microwave in the kitchen area, and you’re free to bring or order your own food as needed.


Is it a competition?

Sometimes! Not every game jam is a competition. If there are prizes, they will usually be announced along with the jam, or on the day of.


How does judging work?

Judges are usually local industry professionals who have chosen not to participate in the jam. According to the judges’ choices, the jam organizers will often offer prizes such as trophies or gift cards to the best games in several categories as prizes. Categories include:
Best Overall Game
Best Art
Best Gameplay
Best Sound
Best Use of Theme

And a few other categories that vary from jam to jam. You don’t have to submit your game for judging, but a bit of friendly competition can be motivating sometimes! Usually, judges playtest the games before the game presentations, while the formal judging and awards occur afterwards. It’s worth it to stick around!


Can I work on an existing project instead?

Sure! Many jammers use the energy of a focused jam space to do additional work on an existing game. Note that existing work it won’t be eligible for competition (though you can still elect to show it at the end of the jam).

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