Game Jam Q&A Panel @ MAGFest 2016

I hosted another game jam panel at this year’s MAGFest and the video is now available! This is our second year doing a game jam panel at MAGFest so we focused more on audience Q&A and how to run game jams.

The best part was that after the panel we ran a 1 hour game “idea” jam. Around 70 people showed up and we split them up into 12 teams. We picked a random theme, “Oh no, I’m late!”, and the teams spent an hour developing an original game concept. Afterwards each team had about 5 minutes to present their idea. For most participants this was their first game jam so it was a really fun experience.

We had some amazing panelists, here is some info about them, from left to right…

Keep reading after the jump for more pictures from the event and postmortem and our plan for next year.

Postmortem

Overall everything went really well and several people thanked me personally afterwards. For many people this was their first time making any kind of game and it was great to so much interest in game development. However there is some room for improvement for next year.

What went wrong

The first problem was just the the turnout was less than expected. As you can see from the photo below, it’s about 40 people, but last year we had well over 100. We believe one cause for smaller attendance may have been the title of the panel “Game Jam Q&A” not sounding as interesting as last year’s “How to make a game in 48 hours”. Also the MAGFest schedules were printed wrong with the days and our panel was early in the fest so people may not have been aware it was going on.

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Game Jam Q & A Panel Audience

Another problem was that our topic was way too broad for a 1 hour panel. Not only did we cover stuff about participating in game jams but also hosting game jams and jam culture. This was not my original plan but when Susan Gold , the founder of Global Game Jam, offered to be on the panel I expanded the topic to hear about her experience running game jams. It probably would have been better to have a separate panel with Susan and Chris about running game jams.

Splitting into more panels would have also helped with the issue of having too many panelists. This time we had 2 more than last year and it’s difficult to manage in too short a time span. People don’t always realize that the panels at conventions like MAGFest are booked very tight on time, so we can’t go much over our limit or it would be unfair to the next group.

What went right

It’s clear that the attendees of MAGFest are interested in game jams. Previous year’s panel had over 100 in attendance and the video of that panel has over 1,000 views, far more then any other non-celebrity panel. People that come to MAGFest are mostly non-developers, but huge fans of videogames that are usually interested in the idea of making their own games. Game jams provide a way for people to actually create a small game with a very minimal time investment.

The 1 hour game jam we hosted couldn’t have gone better. The goal for participants was not to make a game in an hour, but just come up with a game concept that could be made in a short time span. Basically recreating what the first hour of a typical game jam would be like. Around 70 people showed up which was actually a bit more than we had hoped for because it is difficult to manage that many groups. The panelists from the game jam panel helped out by acting as “gurus” who walked around and provided advice to the groups. For most people they had never made a game of any kind before. The best part was at the end we scheduled about 5 minutes per group for them to stand up front and pitch their idea to everyone.

The theme was “Oh, no. I’m late!” and we heard some great ideas. One involved an erupting volcano you needed to throw natives into. Another was a card game where you were late to work and playing cards to get past things slowing you down. Most of the games had some art to explain their idea, and one even had some original music they made during the jam.

The swag I brought to give out probably also helped a bit. The company I work for, Certain Affinity, gave me a bunch of shirts, hats, and other stuff to give out. I held it until the end to encourage people to stay. They took pretty much everything, hopefully I can bring more next year.

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1 Hour Game Jam

To promote the game jam we dubbed it MAGJam and Sonny created this awesome flyer for us to post on social media sites. We also used the logo in a bunch of other places. I’m not sure how much it helped but it sure looks cool. We will probably keep the same logo for next year’s jam.

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Promotional flyer for the 1 hour game jam

Next MAGFest

I talked to my panelists and next year they want to be more involved and plan a multi panel jam track. We plan to break it up into several panels…

  • How to make a game in 48 hours – bring back the most popular panel
  • Great jam games discussion – We pick a few specific really good 48 hour games, and talk about what makes them good how they were made.
  • How to run a game jam – Talk about how to run game jams both local and internet.
  • Paper game jam – 2 hour game jam to make a fully playable board or card game. Supplies will be available to construct the games.
  • Paper game jam playtest – separate “panel” is immediately after analog game jam for people to play and give feedback on the games that were just made

We could also offer separate panels for each discipline but I’m not sure if that will be too much. If so it could be 4 additional panels something like this…

  • Game Jam Design – How to make design decisions for 48 hour games. Keeping things simple but exploring ideas.  What works, what doesn’t?
  • Game Jam Audio – What programs to use and some advice. Maybe do a live demo.
  • Game Jam Graphics – How to create art fast that looks food. Quality vs quantity. Consistancy. Pixel art.
  • Game Jam Programming – What game engines are available? Advice for how to program faster.

That just a rough idea though, we will think more about it more as the next MAGFest approaches. Thanks again to my panelists and everyone that came out to our game jam at MAGFest, see you next year!

Bonus Image

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Don’t leave soda in the freezer. #MAGFest

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