GGJ Archives 2009-2012

I can't believe it's over... thoughts on hosting a jam at a non-residential or community college


I had to write a little bit about our site and the jammers there.

First, I am proud of every one of them. Most of them are my students or former students. They came up with some really fantastic ideas and pulled them together and shipped.(w00t!)

Second, our site was Raritan Valley Community College, a commuter school, no dorms, everyone off campus as quickly as you can get out... I didn't think that we would be allowed to use the buildings after hours, let alone stay the entire 48 hours. But the college didn't have a problem with it. Just asked that all participants sign a waiver. So my word for others in a similar situation as we are in...

Do NOT let the fact that you are a commuter school, a junior college, a community college stop you from hosting a jam next year. What happened in the West building on our campus was magical... or transformative.

The building and campus takes on a different character once everyone else has gone but security. We owned the room, the floor, the building. Which was a good thing because we filled the lab and slept all over the floors around the building. I was transported back to my undergrad years and late night coding sessions in the computer labs. One AM, two AM, three AM...later(earlier) and then stumbling back across the quad to collapse in my dorm room. And I realized...this was the first experience like that for some of the jammers.

I know that a lot of two years schools like us have started game design and development programs. I don't think I would have done this in our first year of the program (never mind that GGJ hadn't started yet.) Take the time to build up a cohort of students who are invested in the program deeply. These are your co-organizers and the base of your jam site. Give them ownership. Let them lead (I just guided when I thought we needed focus) and let them surprise you.

We actually had a larger group of organizers at the start, and once I looked around and realized how smoothly things were going, several organizers jumped to become jammers. Other organizers that were working shifts (and able to go home to sleep) mysteriously found themselves in the lab, working on solo projects and occasionally clearing cans and plates.

It may just be the group of people we drew this year, but every one of our jammers was also participating in occasional clean up, volunteering their 'away from screen time' to keep the space neat.

Ok - some key takeaways:

Expect administration to not have a problem with it. Yeah, I didn't believe this one when I started either...

Get your MIS team in with you early. We lucked out and ours worked really well with us on little notice. Nail this down as early as you can and include them in planning meetings. Get their concerns and understand them. Then figure out how to mitigate them.

Food is important. Plan for at least two good meals (more is your site is isolated) and do more than pizza if you can swing it. We were fortunate that our Student Activities board supported the jam financially. It was co-sponsored by the dept of CS and the Game Dev club. We had water, OJ and coffee... but we also had way too many danish, cookies, bagels, etc. Do what MIT did and bring in some good Indian buffet... :-)

Sleeping arrangements - if you can swing it, find a room away from the jam, but secure. This is the dark/quiet space. no loud noises or music, and no unnecessary entering and exiting. Our first night had people sleeping in the coffee room because the area we thought people would use for sleeping still had the prototypes nad concepts up on the walls and needed to be accessible. Next year I will not be shy about asking for more rooms.

This is going to sound odd... don't advertise your first Jam to the campus community. We were a stealth jam... caught our campus by surprise. I didn't email the campus about it until 2AM saturday morning, providing them with a link to our UStream feed. If things don't go well, you can survive the weekend. If they go great, you can issue e-mail updates and press releases after the event.

Corallary - if you provide a UStream feed, broadcast audio and video AND email the campus, expect that some people will be surprised that game developers curse when things go wrong. Or when they go right. (F*ck yeah!)

Keep an organizer on the IRC channel. This was useful for last minute questions and feedback.

Leverage social media. Take pictures and get them to flickr during the weekend. Monitor the twitter hashtags. Tweet what is happening and make sure your jammers know what is going on elsewhere. I remember that the room got really intense when I announced "Ok, jammers, New Zealand has submitted their games." They knew that time was getting short.

In our jam room we have a large plasma TV. On it was had the following windows:

  • Tweetdeck following #ggj10 and #ggj, (and set up for outgoing)
  • TwitterFountain following #ggj10 and flickr feed on globalgamejam
  • TwitterFountain following #ggj and flickr feed on ggj10
  • flickr slideshow for globalgamejam
  • countdown timer

It helped keep us abreast of what was happening in the rest of the jam. It made it a truly global experience.

For now, I guess that's about it. I'll post about recommendations for organizers trying to help jammers limit scope in my next entry.


All rights reserved 2012-2013, Global Game Jam