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How Global Game Jam increased my productivity

Picture this: You have 48 hours to develop an entire solution. Surrounding you are your teammates you just met at the precinct. Beside you, a mug of coffee — you’re well caffeinated after your fifth cup. In front of you, your computer monitor lighting up the dark room because it’s 1am in the morning — up late, because you’re grinding against the clock.

There’s a mix of other teams in the room too. Some are awake, some have gone to bed in their sleeping bags. However, all of us in the room face the same challenge.

Create a game in 48 hours!

Welcome to the Global Game Jam.

What is the Global Game Jam?

Global Game Jam 2020
Innovation – Experimentation – Collaboration

The Global Game Jam (GGJ) is an event that takes place annually around the world where members of the local game development community get together at a physical location and create a game based on a “secret theme” under a tight deadline (usually 48 hours).

Given this year’s theme was “repair”. Teams around the world developed a game with that theme in mind. It encourages creativity from people with different backgrounds; to rapidly grow an idea and express it as a video game. The individuals that the GGJ attracts programmers, artists, sound engineers, game designers and more. The GGJ is best described as “a hackathon focused on game development”.

a hackathon focused on game development

You need to have a functioning “game loop” by the end of the jam. Game loops are the overall flow control of the entire game program. Think of a game you last played, did you observe that the game had to process your user inputs, update the game world based on those inputs and generate outputs? That’s a game loop. That’s what needs to be functioning in 48 hours. Furthermore, you’ll probably want to develop a way for the player to win/lose; a win/lose condition.

The GGJ is not a competition. There are no prizes or “best” games. You get to network with like-minded individuals and it’s supposed to inspire, foster collaboration and spur new ideas. It’s about trying new things and it’s supposed to be challenging. That’s what makes it fun!

My experience at Global Game Jam

KosMeck-ArMMs was the game my team produced
Our team’s game

There’s no strict format or guidelines to follow when developing a game at the Global Game Jam. However, you and your teammates are encouraged to spend the first night to scope out the entire solution before actually developing the game. The next day is spent on creating the game while the last day is for polishing up the game and making it aesthetically pleasing and fun to play before submission.

I entered the GGJ as a programmer. It was interesting that I had to develop a game with the theme “repair” in mind, I hadn’t done anything like that before! Moreover, I personally chose to wake up at 7am and work all the way to 1am the next day… taking food and rest breaks where necessary. I also chose to sleep at home but you can definitely sleep on-site. If you are going to do so, the mantra is “pack like you’re camping.” You truly learn a lot of things about how you handle yourself under an intense professional environment. This is fundamental to success at the jam.

There’s a reason why these things are called a ‘trial by fire’; tight deadlines, ever increasing pressure, anxiety caused by the fifth cup of coffee. Not to mention, your decision making is slowly impaired as time goes on. Remember, there’s only 48 hours to get this done!

However, there’s just something so fun about getting together with other individuals who share a common interest. You get new experiences while boosting your confidence. You get to team build and network. Most importantly, you get to learn and be productive. Which leads me to the most important topic.

How does GGJ increase my productivity at Fenwick Software?

How exactly does creating a game increase my productivity at Fenwick Software?

You’re taught to gather requirements and scope out an entire video game under a deadline. You’re taught to manage a project and work collaboratively. You need to think on your feet.

Essentially, you need to deliver a product that is fully feature complete and solves a problem that you were given. You iterate over the product over time and finally create a fully fledged playable solution.

This is a similar to how we develop our solutions at Fenwick: “We pride ourselves in providing a personal, solution-based service that extends well beyond the initial sale” .

Our consultants are given “the freedom to thrive, encouraging autonomy, creativity, responsibility, growth, and the freedom to experiment with new ideas“. These are the kind of intellectuals behind the dynamic team at Fenwick who are providing your solutions.

In the end…

There are only a handful of things in the world that are as intellectually challenging as the Global Game Jam. It’s very unique and has a multifold of opportunities that are slowly unravelled over the 48 hours. These opportunities allow you to learn important skills and help boost your productivity and personally grow your career.