Game Jams for Serious Games: Paper Presentation from ECGBL 2016

I was fortunate to present at this year's European Conference of Game-based Learning (ECGBL), which took place at the University of the West of Scotland, Paisley Campus. Alongside Dr Romana Ramzan, we addressed the topic of game jams and their uses for serious game development.

This was a slight (but welcomed) divergence from my research as a whole. Game jams are 'in' at the moment: whether we're talking about worldwide coordinated events such as the Global Game Jam, or smaller-scaled and concentrated events such as the noPILLS Jam, the practice of game jams are becoming increasingly valued. 

Game jams facilitate for a rapid fail-fast method that highlights what can (and cannot) be made possible through a game in a very short period of time. As I was once taught, you should be prepared to (metaphorically) 'kill your babies': that's a much easier thing to do when you've worked on something for a short period of time, as opposed to dedicating weeks, months or even years on a project!

Additionally, these kind of environments are known for boosting individual and team morale. This has proved to be a success when organisations facilitate for autonomous working environments ("Let me get out of your way, go do something cool, and we'll look at the results after x time"). Dan Pink, in his well-known talk on motivation, once described the case of Atlassian Software Company:

Once a quarter, on a Thursday, they say to their developers, "For the next 24 hours, you can work on anything you want, you can work on it the way you want, you can work on it with whomever you want. All we ask is that you show the results to the company at the end of those 24 hours in this fun meeting - not a star chamber session, but this fun meeting with beer and cake and  fun and things like that."

It turns out on that one day of pure, undiluted autonomy has led to a whole array of fixes for existing software, a whole array of ideas for new products that otherwise would never have emerged. One day.

We proposed a "Game Jam Format Matrix" which aims to identify the various types of game jams and their potential outcomes. For researchers interested in applying game jams to their research, particularly within the domain of serious games, we believe it was important to highlight the formats of game jams and how they may align with certain research objectives: whether the game jam will provide few or lots of ideas; which communities are recruited to participate; whether the scale of the game jam influences the output.

The field of research in, and the application of, game jams continues to grow, and while we hope to have contributed another case study towards the application of game jams, there are still so many areas that need to be explored. 

The published paper, as part of the conference proceedings, can be read from here. If you wish to get in contact with regards to this paper, please do not hesitate to contact us from the emails provided on the paper.