The Geek’s Guide to Surviving the Global Game Jam

Welcome! If you are reading this, you’ve probably heard about “that Global Game Jam thing”, and think it sounds cool and maybe you want to try it. You have chosen wisely! It is cool and you will enjoy yourself. That said, I’ve compiled a list of tips so that you can make the Global Game Jam an even better experience.

What is the Global Game Jam, exactly?

The Global Game Jam is a weekend of 48 solid hours of game-making awesomeness. You arrive on Friday, watch the keynotes, learn the theme, and divide up into teams and spend the weekend creating a game around that theme. The 2013 Global Game Jam will start at 5pm (in your time zone) on January 25th and goes for ~48 hours through January 27, 2013. For more detailed info, check out the STL Game Jam FAQ and Global Gam Jam FAQ.

What kinds of games can we create?

All kinds! I’ve helped create a traditional platformer in the spirit of the original NES, a flash game about kitties catching rainbow scales, and a geocaching Whereigo smartphone game about zombies. And it’s not just limited to video games — you can also create a board game or a card game during the Global Game Jam.

I’m not a programmer.

You don’t have to be! I’m a writer, and I help with story concepting, character creation, and dialogue scripting. Artists and animators, both 2D and 3D, are always in demand to create a sleek-looking game. And if you know sound, you are golden — EVERYONE will want you on their team. But you don’t have to know any of those things. The Global Game Jam is about learning new skills and having fun.

Now, onward to tips on how to survive the Global Game Jam.

Breaks

Take them. Go walk around outside for 10 minutes. Take deep breaths. Do something not related to video games for 20 minutes. Call your mother. Go on a food run. Watch cat videos on your phone. Game Jam is a totally intense and rewarding experience. Emphasis on intense. You are going to be in a confined space with a bunch of other people, and all of you will be short on sleep, energy, and privacy. There’s no shame if you have to unplug your brain for a few minutes so you don’t go on a rampage.

Food

Eat it. Game Jam is the kind of intense experience where it’s easy to put your head down and keep working and then surface for air and realize you haven’t eaten for 12 hours. Game Jam will often feed you some meals, but you should also bring some supplies of your own. Protein bars, fruit, beef jerky, trail mix, and peanut butter are good for protein, and you’ll want some of that. Sugar crashes are no fun, and less so during Game Jam.

Fluids

Drink them. Coffee, tea and energy drinks will give you a quick hit of energy, and that’s useful, but be sure to drink some actual water to stay hydrated. Also think about packing actual fruit juice and vitamin water. Soda does not count.

Sleeping

Do it. Four hours at the minimum. Six is better. Or at least try to take 20-minute power naps every few hours.

Bathing

Do it. Put soap on a washcloth, get it wet, and rub it all over your body. Brush your teeth, put on deodorant, change your clothing a few times over the course of the weekend. You’ll feel better, and your teammates will thank you.

Packing Suggestions:

- Laptop, netbook, tablet, or some kind of portable computer with WI-FI enabled
- Power cord and/or extra batteries
- Paper and pencil to write and draw with
- Other art supplies
- bottled water
- snacks
- caffeine (Protip: individual instant packs of coffee are amazing)

So, that’s it! Otherwise, show up, work hard, have fun! We’ll see you in a week at the 2013 Global Game Jam!

Caitlin Moriarity is a technology and pop culture freelance writer in St. Louis, MO. This is her second global game jam. You can find her at her website. Crossposted to her blog.