Game Jams can be really intimidating, especially if it’s your first time going. You probably feel like you aren’t good enough to contribute to the team, unsure if you can handle the pressure and not really sure if you can suggest your own ideas for the game you’re making.
Here’s some tips for you! Both for experienced and beginners out there.
(This guide will not show you where to find game jams but here’s a pro tip… https://itch.io/jams)
Tip Number One: Expect nothing!
I really like going into a game jam expecting absolutely nothing. That means not expecting anything from my teammates, the product or the process. If I start caring about whether or not the programmer is good, if I like the artist’ art-style and so on, I begin to build some negative energy that really isn’t helpful in such an intense situation.
Instead, try to find positive things in all your teammates and then try to build upon those foundations. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, so it’s all about building from those strengths that your group has!
And last of all, don’t expect your game to be good, just expect it to function and maybe also to be sort of fun! This time it’s about the process, not so much the product.
Tip Number Two: Set Yourself A Goal
If you want to challenge yourself further during a game jam, set yourself a little but manageable goal. This could be something along the lines of only using synthesizers, recording all sound effects from scratch and so on.
This is the perfect opportunity to learn something new, really fast, without much consequence.
It’s important to remember that you need to serve the game first in terms of your sound design, so either be ready to drop your challenge if it doesn’t fit the game or have a backup challenge ready for yourself.
Tip Number Three: Don’t Be Afraid To Contribute Game Design Ideas
Just because you’re in charge of sound, doesn’t mean that you can’t throw your game design ideas out there as well! Have a great idea for a mechanic, an ability or even a whole game? Say it! The other teammates will respect you much more, thereby involving you more in the actual game development process, which you want! Even if none of those ideas ended up in the game, you helped refine the idea that is now present.
Remember, you’re equally as qualified as the others to come up with great game ideas. Even if someone in your group has a degree in game design, doesn’t necessarily mean that they come up with the best ideas, so shoot your shot!
Tip Number Four: Decide If You Want To Work On Multiple Projects
As a sound designer (also composers), there’s usually some downtime for you during the game jam. This usually occurs at the start when the basic systems/gameplay of the game are being built and at the end when final gameplay polishing is in progress. So what can you do during that downtime? Maybe find another group to work for as well!
I personally like to only work for one group and then focus completely on that single game. Even if that means I have some downtime, that downtime is usually spent thinking about how I could improve some of the audio features, maybe even re-designing some of the sounds in the game, making for a better final product (hopefully!).
The positive side to working with more groups is that it will introduce you to more people, it will give you more games for your portfolio and maybe you’ll have double the fun! The choice is really up to you.
Tip Number Five: Game Jams Are Not Networking Events
Well, they sort of are… but you shouldn’t approach them that way!
Go to game jams to have fun, meet some new friends and get some raw experience. If you actively go into it searching for a new gig, you’ll quickly burn a lot of bridges.
I remember saying to a couple of developers at my first game jam; “Well… if you ever need sound for your upcoming project, you can call me”, and instantly seeing their attitude towards me go very sour. So take some friendly advice here, talk to people like they’re your friends, not like walking money machines.
Tip Number Six: Consider Writing Music As Well
Now, I’m guessing most of you probably have some sort of musical experience and that maybe some of you are also composers as well. Being able to write music and also do sound design is an extremely useful skill during a game jam, because it saves having to find another member for the team and in turn also gives you just that bit more experience that we all so desperately crave!
If you have no interest in writing music whatsoever, that’s totally fine, keep doing you!
If you have never written music before but want to try it out at a game jam, that’s totally fine for most people as well. I would recommend maybe just writing a couple of tunes at home at first, just to get used to the workflow and setup, so that you can relatively quickly do it when under pressure.