The one mistake I did when attending NGJ 2015, was focusing on creating a great game

11 Feb

I attended Nordic Game Jam 2015, with two of my friends and we created a small game which we decided to call Ballocks.

A small game were you control a laughing ball who have to avoid landmines


So when I decided to attend Nordic Game Jam, I were striving to put all my skills into this game and produce the best possible game within the 48 hours we had. At the hostel, were we spend our night between the pre-party and the actual beginning of the game jam, we decided to talk about what kind of game design we should continue with. We were all thrilled about the decided game design, and we were all pumped with nerdish testosterone, and were eager for the game jam to begin.

The day before the jam, there were a couple of lectures from different people. The key note speaker, Steve Swink caught my interest. Summing up his speech in a few words would be something like: “Don’t live up to the hype, just have fun”The day after when the theme “Obvious” were announced, I started to observe the first few indications that I were doing something wrong at the game jam. Internal humor at its finest. The crowd was laughing at two guys, simply standing in last year’s t-shirt, and the theme presenter joked about people who I never heard about before. This continued for some time andd a good bunch of other episodes were I started thinking “Why is this even funny, who are these people he mentions? What am I missing here?”

How on earth do you work with a theme as “Obvious”. I guess I should have attended art school.


After that, we were ready for a fight! We quickly found a group room in which we could start dive into our project and start develop immediately. We didn’t even glance at the other participants, who were seeking groups, because we felt the three of us had a common understanding of the game and we believe the fewer people there were, the fewer discussions would rise, the quicker the production would go. We were so hyped to create the best possible game during the 48 hours.

And so it began, we crunched, we crunched and we crunched a bit more and 48 hours later, 3-4 hours of sleep and a good pot of C# spaghetti later, we finally finished our game. It was a fine little game, were polishing were put into focus. I really believed we had a chance to earn some reputation with our game. I guess I was wrong. Already in the first round of showcase, the game “Copenhagen 2030” managed to pass through the needle head.

Copenhagen have fallen to global warming, and all danes have turned into cowboys with fancy hats. Its a four player local multiplayer game, and I guess image itself is explanatory.


Oh well, slightly disappointed, but still in good mood, we attended the nomination ceremony. During the cermony, we realized there were more than just one reward, there were a good dozen of rewards that was suppose to be given out. All these rewards were given out by judges who we never saw during the jam, and we were wondering, how they decide if they haven’t seen all the entries in the game jam. I mean, we sat in our group room, and we didn’t get any visitors.

I then came to the conclusion, maybe I got it all wrong. Maybe Nordic Game Jam isn’t about creating the best game, maybe it’s something more than that. The events up to the game jam started to make sense. Then the keynote speaker, Steven Swink stroked my mind. “Don’t live up to the hype, just have fun”The internal humor during the theme announcement were based on people who have been attending Nordic game jam for years. The judges’ votes were given to people who have been networking, who have showed their game to others and were visible in the jam.

I realized, I got it all wrong. Maybe I were to focused on creating a great game, which I could showcase to others, maybe I were more focused on obtaining hype and reputation rather than just focusing on the fun. Don’t get me wrong. This is not a blog about, “How to earn rewards for a game jam” and I am proud of our game Ballocks.  But I personally believe I could have gained more from the jam than just a game. Maybe if we left our group room, we had ended up extending my network. Maybe would NGJ 16 be even more exciting because I were about to visit my friends from NGJ 15. Maybe I had gained new skills by working with more experienced developers.

There is more to a game jam than just creating a great game. Game jams are also about expanding one’s network. Its about creating relations with others within the same proffesion, obtain new skills by working with people you don’t know, and most important, have fun!

It’s fun to create a great game, but what really expands a developer’s horizon is to expand his network.

Based on my experience, I have a few advices for new participants for Nordic Game Jam 2016.

  • Join the game jam, without a group.
  • Don’t find a remote location for your group. Stay close to others
  • Seek other people, start network
  • Show your game, don’t be afraid.

I would like to pay a small tribute to the four persons who made sure we were not completely isolated during our Game Jam. Because I am bad with names, I won’t refer to them through their names, but instead the game which they created during the jam:  Gravity Sucks!

Inspired by octodad, you play the role as man who have to do daily tasks. Controls are four joysticks on two controllers. The game utilize an oculus rift, and I believe it is great fun! Octodad + Oculus rift -+Four joysticks on two controllers = Immersive QWOP


Right after we found our rooms, we thought “Oh yeah, here we can go code crazy!” but short after, a group of people burst in asking whether they could tag along. We said yes, and this was a great decision. These were a bunch of friendly and nice guys, and we had great fun. I really hope to see them next year!

I hope someone can learn from my experience, and don’t get surprised if you see me next year with a crate of beer and a sign writing “Code monkey for hire”.


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