What is a game jam and does it involve soaking fruit in sugar for long periods of time?

Game jams are typically a short window of time, either 24 hours to a whole week, where folks will work under a theme to produce a short game prototype from scratch to finish. Teams usually consist of 1-4 people here at GAMERella. Each member takes up a different role to see the project to completion. You’re essentially left to your own devices throughout the jam, with a few check-ins from the staff and mentor teams to see how things are going. As we approach the end of the jam, you’ll be encouraged to send us your game to post on our GAMERella Global itch.io page for your to showcase whatever you’ve made!

So, do I just make a game for 48 hours?

NO! We will encourage regular breaks, keeping hydrated, and sleeping. You won’t be your best self if you operate on little sleep.

Where is the jam?

Traditionally the jam took place in Montreal, but we are now online, so the entire jam will be held on Discord, a free messaging app, similar to Slack. It’s brilliant, convenient and runs on many devices. It will allow you to communicate with mentors, your teammates, share images or even do audio and video calls.

WHEN is the jam?

In the case of our online editions, the jam takes place across the world, so people will start jamming at various times. We recommend you start jamming any time after the welcome package has been distributed on Friday morning (ET). If you would like to submit your game to the jury, your game must be uploaded to our itch.io by 5pm ET on Sunday, July 11th, 2021. Don’t worry if your game is not finished by then, you can always keep working on it.

How can I find a team?

After you register, and join our Discord server, you will see that we have two channels on our Discord – if you already have a team, you can use the #looking-for-members channel, or if you’re currently solo, you can use the #looking-for-team channel. Post your name and short bio, including your skills, and you’ll find groups quickly emerge! We’re already seeing teams pop up over the last few days, so get yourself out there.

Do I need to sign up with a team or can I come alone?

You can sign up with a team that has already formed, but you can also come solo and join a team while you’re here. We’ll have a team-building session for anyone who hasn’t yet found a team. We also ask people who have formed their teams beforehand to consider adding a first-time jammer to the mix. If you have a team but are missing someone with a particular skill set, don’t worry, you will meet that person at the jam!

How many people per team?

There is no required number, but we suggest you stick to 2 or 4. Anything above 4 or 5 per team is not recommended as it can get a little chaotic. You can also make a game by yourself, if you’re up to the challenge! Join the GAMERella workshops to broaden your skill set.

May I start before the jam? May I use assets made by others?

The guidelines for most game jams are as follows: if the theme is not secret (will be announced a couple of weeks before the jam), you may begin thinking of how you would like to approach making your game and find yourself a team. We encourage you all to try to make your whole game, including your assets during the jam. Of course we understand that time is short and there are some great asset libraries online, especially for sound. We will leave it up to you how much you rely on those. Just make sure to check copyright laws and give credit when using assets created by someone else.

Are there any free/easy tools I could use to make a game?

Yes, there are. Make sure to visit our Workshop page to find out online tutorials for many of the apps listed below!

We recommend Twine an open source, free tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories online. It is very easy to use and requires no coding knowledge.

Stencyl is another great tool to create games without code.
Just like Stencyl, GameMaker is also mostly drag-and-drop, but includes features allowing for more complex games with some basic programming.

There are also great free apps for making audio (Audacity, Tux Guitar, Otomata) and art (PyxelEdit) for your game.
Most probably these applications will be taught during our workshops!

I’m not available the whole weekend–can I just come by and check it out?

In this case, we recommend you join us for the playtest that happens Sunday from 5 to 7pm. During the playtest participants will show what they worked on during the weekend. The vent is public, so invite all your friends!

What happens with the games?

All GAMERella participants who make a video game will be asked to upload their game to our itch.io jam site. It is free to register and easy to upload your game. Once uploaded, people can play your game anywhere in the world for free. If your game is a physical game and cannot be described by zeros and ones, take some photos or even some videos and share that online. Organizers can help you with this process, just let us know. During in-person game jams, our photographer can help you take stunning photos for your game’s glory.

Who are mentors, and what exactly will they do?

Mentors are lovely industry and maker folks who have volunteered their time to help you through the jam experience. They come from various skill backgrounds and will be “on the ground” assistance for any issues or problems you bump into during the jam, as well as dropping by to ask you questions about what you’re making. We’ll have a live schedule for who is around and when, so you know who you can turn to if you need help and who might drop by to say hello during the jam.

What if I can’t make a whole game?

Sometimes during a jam, you won’t finish your game! However, over the years, we’ve had participants come away with a really neat mechanic they managed to pull off or a character animation that they’re really proud of – even if it didn’t end up being part of a completed game. This experience is really about you getting more comfortable in making something, and honing your skills further with others. This is the place to make mistakes and learn about bugs you never dreamed existed!

What if one of the participants or even organizers are being insensitive, or disrespectful? Are there some rules?

Absolutely. We have a support worker available throught the jam who is not just available to address any of your concerns but will go out of their way to check in with every single participant regularly. We also have some basic code of conduct outlined on our values page. For a more detailed description we refer to the TAG code of conduct.

Is GAMERella accessible?

We do our best to make the jam as accessible as possible. When the jam is in-person, it takes place on the 11th floor of the EV building at Concordia University, which is wheelchair accessible via all of its entrances and the 11th floor is reachable by elevators located near the building entrances. In proximity to the space, there are gender-neutral washrooms that are also wheelchair accessible.

Since 2020, we all gather on Discord. Discord text can be adjusted for better readability and supports both video and audio calls. All announcements or spoken parts of the game jam will be either transcribed and posted with closed captioning. Beside Discord, we expect to use gather.town and Zoom or Google Meet for announcements.

We also recommend trying to make your game more accessible. Here are a very handy tips and guidelines to help you with that.