Lifestyle Tech

Shenanijam 2018 – my first game jam!

June 14, 2018

This past weekend, I joined my first game jam, hosted by Butterscotch Shenanigans! I’ve never participated in one, nor have I ever fully made a game.

Several years ago, I dabbled with the idea of learning programming, but never took it seriously and only learned what I needed to help me get by. I was in a rough place career-wise; I wasn’t in a place where I was able to focus on one specific field within IT and I was mainly putting out fires in my company with very little resources and a tiny team. So when I did get into experimenting with making games, I tried to ease into it with platforms like Clickteam Fusion and RPG Maker. I didn’t get very far into learning the coding behind it and coddled myself by mainly sticking to the GUI-side of things.

I did, however, learn a bunch about logic, game mechanics, and meta-game type of stuff that you might not actually consider when you jump into creating games. How much did it help during my first game jam? Not sure it helped at all, haha. I went into this with Chovin (his name is going to pop up a lot, by the way), kind of hoping he’d carry us through it with his amazing coding skills. However, we jumped in deciding to learn a new platform altogether–Godot. I didn’t do enough research in the days leading up to the jam, and really had to rely on Chovin to do the heavy lifting…on a platform that he didn’t know, either. I only helped with the mediocre artwork and finding sound bites and a song to use in our game while he trudged his way through tutorials and reference guides to construct something playable.

Would I do it again? What would I do differently?

It was a lot of fun, but I definitely felt the pressure. Chovin constantly reassured me we didn’t have to finish our game, and that the game jam for him is more about the learning process and overall experience. Of course my sometimes-overachieving tendencies scream at me to set the bar unrealistically high, even though rationally I knew we couldn’t get much done in two-ish days. I’d definitely do it again, but I’d like to be more familiar with the platform we’ll be using beforehand–that way, we can focus on actually creating something together, as opposed to stumbling through the learning. Not that there’s anything wrong with learning as you go along, but there’s a time and place for learning the very fundamentals of a system, and a game jam is not it (at least for me).

I’d like to get to a place where I’m the one doing most, if not all the coding. I entertained the idea of finishing our game to give me more experience on Godot, but I’m not sure it’s the platform I want to invest in first. I already have an unruly backlog of things I want to learn as well as practicing and refining the things I already know, so adding yet another engine I’m not keen on feels overwhelming. I like the charm of PICO-8, so I’ll likely stick to that for now.

As a last segue and shameless plug, check out our Intro to Game Development with PICO-8 course on freeCodeCampGuam’s website! Chovin and I are still working on creating the content as of this post, but we hope to make this course comprehensive enough not only to get you going on PICO-8, but so that you can transfer the skills and knowledge you learn to other programming languages and technologies and explore the world of computer science!

Happy coding! And if you’re like me, happy floundering about in variables and functions! 😁

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