The Values of The Global Game Jam
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
The Global Game Jam is the world's largest multi-site game jam. We are gearing up towards the 2016 edition, and at the time of writing 449 sites from 80 countries have signed up. If that trend continues, we'll definitely beat last year's record of 517 sites once the jam begins in a month's time.
As a founder, the core value for me about the Global Game Jam is not the size, but the values of sharing, collaboration and experimentation that it was founded upon. Those values have largely been inherited from the Nordic Game Jam, which I co-founded together with Jesper Juul and Henriette Moos.
In fact, not only are jammers required to be at one of the sites, but they are are also highly encouraged to join a team. We strongly believe that ideas get better as they are bounced back and forth between team members. Additionally, a big part of game dev is learning to work in teams with people with complimentary skill-sets and ideas. The Global Game Jam archives provide several ideas for group forming, based on experiences at the Nordic Game Jam.
An important part of any jam is to show off what you have created to the other jammers. Jams are a great place to get feedback from your peers. The Nordic Game Jam took this idea further and required jammers to not only upload an executable, but also all the assets and source code needed to rebuild the game from scratch. At the Nordic Game Jam, we believed it was important that jammers can learn not only from and discuss each others' ideas, but also discuss and learn from implementation details. Later on, this idea became a core part of the Global Game Jam as well.
All games uploaded to the Global Game Jam website are licensed under the terms of the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Creative Commons licence. In human speak that simply mean that anyone can share and modify your game as long as they attribute the original creators and don't earn any money from it. Just as importantly, the original creators retain the commercial rights to the game and assets, and can develop the game further in private without violating any license terms.
An important reason d'etre of game jams is to provide a safe space where ideas can be generated and tried out without having to consider the usual day-to-day restrictions of game production such as target demographics, deadlines, hardware, programming language and tool restrictions, etc.
The Global Game Jam always has a keynote video as well as a theme, both of which are distributed to all sites and used among other things to instil the importance of experimentation in the jammers. By keeping the theme secret until the last possible moment, jammers are forced to use their creativity to come up with ideas on a short notice.
As a founder, I strongly believe that one of the stand out things about the Global Game Jam is that it is based upon a set of values; we actively promote sharing, collaboration and experimentation in game dev across the globe. Of course, I am also not blind to the fact that it is the world's largest game jam in terms of number of participants, countries involved and games that makes our message that much stronger.
In closing I have to say that seeing approximately 30,000 people from 80+ countries put aside their differences for 48 hours to focus all their creativity on the same task, is an extremely heartening feeling.