So You Want to Game Jam

in Advice

So I heard you wanted to participate in a game jam. Probably cause there is a pretty cool one coming up soon with a giant cash prize.

That’s AWESOME! Game Jams are a lot of fun, and they are a good way to motivate yourself to put your nose to the grindstone and finish a game. Maybe you’ll make a masterpieces. Maybe you won’t. But the important thing is that you put your heart into it and you did your best.

But let’s look at some healthy things to do to keep your brain and body energized while you crank out that game.

Step 1: Pace Yourself

You have a set amount of time to make a game. Say a month. The first thing you need to do is make a plan, and pace your progress. If you get a little bit done every day, this whole thing will be way less stressful.

If you wait until the last week to do the whole game, you’re going to be a bundle of stress and nerves by the end. And you won’t put out your best game.

Step 2: Eat and Sleep Well


OK, look, I know you aren’t going to sleep perfectly. And sometimes you will be on a roll and you won’t want to stop to get something to eat. But you can’t keep that up for an entire month. Make sure you are getting 6-8 hours of sleep a day. Don’t overdue it on the caffeine. Getting some coffee to get an extra hour in is fine, but when you are mainlining espresso so you can pull multiple all nighters you are probably going to not be producing your best work.

Try and eat three-ish meals a day. And don’t do it all on junk food. I get it, I’m not the healthiest eater in the world either, but you should probably aspire slightly better to keep your health up. You don’t want to crash mid-Jam. Buy some fresh fruit. Maybe some granola. Perfect quick snacks for when you are working hard. And stay hydrated! On something other than energy drinks, coffee, and soda. Water is good for you!

Step 3: Take Breaks


Your Game Jam game is important, but sometimes in order to do your best, you need to refresh your brain. Step away from the computer for a bit. Go for a walk (the exercise and sunlight will do you good!). Read a chapter of a book. Watch an episode of your favorite feel good TV show.

Maybe combo it up with Step 2 and cook a real meal.

Doing just one thing with all your leisure time can cause burn out. If you have paced yourself properly, you should have time to step away for a bit every day.

Step 4: Prepare for that last stretch


Let’s face it, now matter how well you pace yourself, you probably are going to have way more to do in the last week than you would have liked. Now its time for crunch time. Crunch time will mean taking a break from step 1-3 a little bit, but make sure you don’t abandon them entirely! Stock up on decent, quick to make foods to keep yourself fed. Keep a bottle of water nearby to keep hydrated! Try to get some sleep. Set alarms to take quick 10 minute breaks away from the screen to rest your eyes.

The last stretch can be hard, and it will definitely be hectic. So the last step is:

Step 5: Don’t Panic


Panicking is the worst thing you can do in almost any endeavor. Panic doesn’t accomplish anything. And remember, in the end, the purpose of Game Jams is to have fun. If you don’t finish? It’s OK. Don’t work yourself to death to get your game done. The important things are that you have fun. You can finish the game after the jam is over. That’s still cool.

And the thing you’ll learn is that when you stop panicking, and just keep on  plugging away, you probably WILL get done. With the help of a little extra caffeine, and a little less sleep.

Then you can collapse.

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