Today Big Blue Bubble is hosting a game jam featuring teams made up of our entire office population. With certain design restrictions in mind; ten teams of seven employees with job titles ranging from programmers to copywriters, and baristas to accountants will work together to create the best mobile game they can.
This is Big Blue Bubble’s second internal game jam; company founder Damir Slogar hosted and judged the first and will be heading up the team of judges this time around. When asked why he decided to run this game jam he let us know that “Game jams were popular for quite some time but they were rarely done by game companies. This creates a unique development atmosphere where the teams are encouraged and inspired to take steps that are not typical in their day-to-day work in order to get tasks done. Also, all the employees are included in the design and development process so the dynamic is quite different. Our first game jam was very successful so doing it again was really a no brainer.”
Game jams are an amazing opportunity for game studios, allowing them to ideate, create, and test prototypes very quickly. That’s not the only bonus though, as team captain Stephanie Richardson points out, it is a big chance for developers to stretch their creative muscles. Many game jams place certain restrictions and design requirements on teams, causing them to have to think outside the box about not only their design but also how they build their team. Damir likes to think of the game jam as the ‘ultimate test’ of Big Blue Bubble’s creativity and critical thinking.
An important part of getting ready for the game jam is putting together the right team. Our ten team captains were chosen based on their seniority, they then chose their teammates one at a time from a roster of the entire company. The only catch, they couldn’t choose someone whose skill set was the same as their own. Team captain Tigh Tiefenbach found that his team picks were largely technical based, but that the most important thing was getting a team that would be excited about an idea and would want to make something together. Captain Jason Willis also found that amongst all the team captains, feelings of friendship and trust were much more important than choosing the “best” person.
A big twist introduced in our game jam is the sheer variety of people to choose from. With Big Blue Bubble being a self contained studio there are a lot of employees who wouldn’t normally be on a team for a game jam. Sarah Dashow, a Senior Quality Service Rep felt that this made the game jam a great chance to share ideas outside of normal departmental boundaries, especially for those who don’t usually get to work directly in design and development.
One of the major challenges facing the teams will be a time crunch, normally games have a long development cycle, where much of the planning is done before any code is even written. All of the preparations and the creation of today’s games will need to be done in a single day. Team captain Kailey Joanette put it best when he called time ‘the enemy’, to combat this his team will focus on ensuring the game’s scope is limited to what is doable under the time constraints. ‘Scope creep’ which is the tendency for design choices to become inflated over time is a real risk in game design, and an even larger one during a game jam. To combat scope creep some captains, like Randy Van Der Vlag, are focusing on working collaboratively to make sure every suggestion is reasonable without risking overwork and sticking to realistic goals. Other captains, like Bruno Mateus, plan on tackling the constraints head on, though they don’t envy anyone who might have to go through their crunch time code in the future!
There’s a lot a team can take away from a completed game jam, and every captain’s feelings were different. Mark Maia, who felt the real significance of a game jam comes from a team getting to build something from the ground up, is hoping to give his team more collaborative work experience, while Chris Mai is focusing on making a fun game his team will enjoy creating.
Next week we’ll be checking in with the team captains one more time to see where they succeeded, what they’ve learned, and what they would have done differently after today’s game jam.
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