Getting ready for the Chezo Game Jam

By Egra Ombati
  Published 30 Sep 2016
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This weekend the Chezo Game Jam will run at iHub. There are many game jams and as a result many “how to do a game jam” style articles. Instead of adding to that pile I would like to focus on the parts that make this jam unique. If you are looking for more general Game Jam info, here and here are some articles with great general jam advice:

Done reading those? Great, then let’s have a look at some of the unique challenges and opportunities of the Chezo Game Jam.

Picking a topic

Most jams present a single theme and require everyone to fit to that theme. Due to the serious nature of the Chezo Jam we will instead have multiple stakeholders presenting multiple topics. This in turn allows you as a participant to pick something that fits your interests and skills. If you have a hard time choosing you can also consider brainstorming ideas for multiple topics and selecting the topic you have the best ideas for.

Make use of expert knowledge

Another advantage of the stakeholders bringing in the subjects is a direct line to expert knowledge. Don’t just take the initial problem description and try to do everything yourself. Instead ask a lot of questions! There will be experts on the various topics as well as game design and development available during the jam. Just abuse their knowledge. And since some of them will also be judging your entries, understanding what they like is extra important...

Don’t limit yourself by technical constraints

This jam is not about working with a specific tool or even about making a digital game. If you are more comfortable making a board game, go right ahead! If you think the topic of your choice is best solved with a mobile app, that’s great! You have access to a virtual reality headset and want to use that to create a VR game, awesome! Simply pick the medium you like. Just keep in in what best fits your topic, target group and the skillset of your team.

Think about the long term

At the end of the jam grants will be awarded to the best teams. Those teams will also have continued access to subject matter experts and game design and development support. Because of this the judges will not only look at what you created during the weekend of the jam, they’ll also be interested in what you would do with that support in the future. If you have a great business plan be sure to tell them. Also, if your vision exceeds the limited time available be sure to explain how you intend to grow the game beyond the limited confines of a two day jam.

But build for the short term

A counterpoint to the previous point: Although a well explained long term plan is very beneficial, ideas alone will probably not win the hearts of the judges. The best way to prove that you can execute your vision is by creating a great jam entry. Leave all the advanced features that might be needed in the long run and focus on showing off the core concept of your game as best you can within the available time.

Remember that your working on a serious game

Finally you should remember you are building a serious game. You are not making a boring and dry simulation of a system. Neither are you making something simply to entertain. Those that attended the previous Chezo Gaming workshops might remember the concept of Triadic Game Design. You could write a whole book about that concept (and Casper Harteveld, the guy who coined the term did just that) but for now just keep in mind that a good serious game needs to be based in reality, needs to have meaning and finally it needs to be fun to play. So remember to occasionally take a step back during your process and evaluate whether all three of those aspects: reality, meaning and play are still properly represented in your game.

Finally I wish you all good luck in the jam and remember to have fun!

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