Back in March 2002, developers Chris Hecker and Sean Barrett created a game engine capable of rendering a massive number of sprites. To test their creation, they invited a group of game developers to their offices to try it out and experiment with new ideas, thus spawning Game Jam (read more about it here). Today, there are hundreds of events, held across the globe every year. Game Jam’s are a great chance for game programmers, designers and artists to get together and create exciting and innovative projects, without the pressure of the real world.
Game Jams have given birth to a variety of interesting game ideas that went on to become huge successes, such as Surgeon Simulator, Goat Simulator and Super Hot. The essence of jams is to give developers an opportunity to forget about aesthetics, and polished mechanics. Instead, it’s a chance to focus on giving birth to an intriguing idea, creating a prototype that can give players new and exciting experiences.
Why have so many Game Jam games, gone on to become successful commercial releases? Because the initial idea of those games was created with one thing and one thing only in mind; how do I create something that’s fun?
The term Game Jam is comprised of the words ‘game’ and ‘jam session’, a way to describe the collaborative act of producing something with no prior preparation in an effort to develop new material or simply to practice (not the sweet and sticky crushed fruit that you would normally spread on your toast!). Although the original intention of a Game Jam has never been to create a complete, polished game and ship it off to its respective store, many successful breakout games do spawn from Jams. As GameSparks recently announced its first ever Game Jam, #SparksJam (find out more here), we thought we would take a look at the greatest games to have been produced by a jammer.
AVGM (Abusive Video Game Manipulation)
Created: In 48 hours at the 2009 Global Game Jam
Creators: Created by developers of Super Meat Boy, Edmund McMillen and Tyler Glaiel
Tell me more: This is a perfect example of an idle clicker we all hate to love. As you can expect from a clicker, the concept is pretty simple. There is an empty bedroom, and a light switch, all you need to do is click the light switch on and off to keep collecting items that slowly fill the room.
It may not initially sound like the most immersive or engaging game ever to be created, but after trying the game out for ourselves, and although we all hate to admit it, AVGM is wildly addictive.
But that would be the point. In the second instalment of the widely popular indie game documentary, Indie Game Life After, Edmund McMillen said that AVGM was a prime representation of how easily players can be manipulated into spending extended periods of time doing repetitive tasks through simple positive reinforcement.
Created: Created at the 2013 Ludum Dare
Creator: Ján Ilavský
Tell me more: Ludum Dare distinguishes itself from the myriad of other events by asking its participants to give something back to the community. Namely, making source code publicly available for download.
After taking part with only one working hand, having broken his arm in a kickbike accident, Ján Ilavský never expected to see variations of his creation popping up on app stores. And so, a little over a year later, revived his jam project, releasing Chameleon Run into the world.
After working with Noodlecake Games, Chameleon Run eventually became an App Store success, even going on to win the Apple Design Award. Not bad for game initially developed with only one fully functioning arm!
The game is an autorunner with a twist. As the name of the game suggests, you can change your character’s colour, as you run through the course, but your colour must match the platform you land on.
Ironically, despite making a game defined by colour, Ján is colour blind and relied on his wife, who went on to pick the pink and yellow look of the game.
Created: Created in 2013 at the Oculus VR Jam
Creator: Created by Sunken Places
Tell me More: Due for release in 2016, Classroom Aquatic is quite possibly the only underwater trivia game we have ever played. You play as a dolphin facing exam conditions in a classroom, trying to cheat off other dolphins in order to complete the test. Sunken Places have smartly used VR technology as a way for you to lean over and turn your head to get sneak a look at classmates answers.
Created: Created at Coffee Stain Studios internal game jam, after finishing Sanctum 2.
Creator: Created by the Coffee Stains Studios
Tell me More: Goat Simulator was never meant to be a commercial release. It started as a simple prototype that employees at Coffee Stains Studios were having fun playing, but the current generation’s love affair with ridiculous game concepts, and the nation’s obsession with YouTube, subsequently led to its release in 2014. Since then the game has been made available on Android, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, Linux and Mac OS.
Possibly most interestingly, at the 2016 Game Developers Conference, Ibrisagic revealed that Goat Simulator had generated more than $12 million in revenue, compared to both Sanctum and Sanctum 2 which made under $2 million each.
Gods Will be Watching
Created: Emerged from the 26th Ludum Dare in 2013
Creator: Created by Deconstructeam
Tell me More: Created within 72 hours as an entry for Ludum Dare#26, Gods Will Be Watching originally consisted of a single scene scenario, where the player is forced to make difficult moral decisions, with the goal of helping people survive winter on an alien planet. The complete version expanded this initial concept into an immersive narrative that had us all gripped.
After the competition, Deconstructeam launched an Indigogo campaign with a goal of €8,000. The campaign ended on 15 August 2013, having raised €20,385.
Created: Created in the 2015 Global Game Jam in under 48 hours.
Creators: Aj Kolec, Jessica Jackson, Colton Spross, and Josh Faubel.
Tell me more: Home Improvisation is a game about assembling Ikea furniture. A task that can sometimes prove notoriously difficult in reality, but you would think that it would be relatively straightforward in the virtual world, especially without the hassle of having to lift and move things yourself.
With no instructions on how the furniture should be constructed and an unlimited number of possible ways to construct them. Home Improvisation is remarkably tricky, but surprisingly fun. This all adds up to making the game a YouTuber’s favourite, with 13 million views on YouTube, to date.
Created: Created in a 72 hour jam for the PewDiePie vs Indies YouTuber hosted Game Jam in 2014
Creator: Created by the Askiisoft Games team, a group of independant game developers currently creating free content for the gaming community.
Tell me more: OverPowered starts off feeling like any typical hardcore platformer, with hidden traps and ridiculous obstacles that you can only hope to get past through a series of trial and errors.
When the gamer’s rage has well and truly taken over, and you think all hope is lost, faith is restored and you find the hero’s orb, transforming you into an invincible being immune to any and all obstacles, even the final boss only takes one hit to obliterate. Reminiscent of One Punch Man, this originally tough platformer gives players the satisfaction of finally beating up all the obstacles that were the cause of so many previous deaths.
Created: Created at the end of 2015 for Sumo Digital’s Inaugural Game Jam
Creator: Seb Liese, part of Sumo Digital’s Little Big Planet Team.
Tell me more: Seb has an interesting origin story, his previous profession had nothing to do with gaming, he used to a biology teacher in Holland. While teaching, Seb was leading a secret double life – being a creator on Little Big Planet, becoming one of the most popular on the game. Before long, his talent was identified, leading to a change of career and joining Sumo Digital in its Sheffield HQ. It was after this he came up with Snake Pass at the team’s Game Jam.
The initial game Seb created was aptly named “real snake physics”. After the game had won the Sumo Digital Game Jam, Seb was given a team of his own to flesh out and create Snake Pass.
Created: The initial idea of Superhot was born from the 7 Day First Person Shooter Game Jam (7DFPS)
Creators: Created by The Bricky Blues
Tell me more: Super Hot is a first person Shooter, where time moves, only when you move. Letting us all act out our matrix fantasies. From this simple game design spawned one of the fastest growing games to come out of a game jam. Super Hot went through the Steam Greenlight process in a single weekend, and its Kickstarter goal of raising $100,000 was fully funded within only 23 hours.
At present, a quarter of a million dollars has been raised for Super Hot. It has become such a YouTube favourite that there are hundreds of thousands of videos related to the game, helping to boost its popularity.
Created: Surgeon Simulator’s initial version was created within 48 hours at Global Game Jam 2013
Creators: Tom Jackson, Jack Good, Luke Williams and James Broadley of Bossa Studios.
Tell me more: Surgeon simulator, is a pretty self-explanatory game, except unlike real surgeries (I hope!), the procedure is deemed a success if the player manages to remove the old organ and throw the replacement into the body of the patient before he dies of blood loss.
As well as the weird and whacky implements this game offers to players, Surgeon Simulator also uses interesting gameplay controls. Using the keyboard. you use your left hand to control which fingers you’d like to grip, and the right hand to control the movement and twist of the hand. Surgeon Simulator has become an incredibly well-known game, a YouTuber’s delight and has sold over two million copies since release.