At the end of a game jam, after the rush of submitting, usually the first thing on my mind is to have a sleep. But one of the joys is having a look at what everyone else has done with the theme. Game jams often encourage this by having a rating period where you can rate and provide feedback on other entries. Especially in the bigger game jams, there are often ones that really stand out. Here are three which impressed me.
What Goes Up, GMTK Jam 2018
The theme of Game Makers Tool Kit Jam 2018 was 'GENRE, but you can’t MECHANIC'. This lead to games that met the theme, creating a game in a genre without its signature mechanic. It turns out that the signature mechanic is usually pretty important to a genre so developers needed to go the extra mile and do something interesting with the missing functionality.
My favourite interpretation of this that I saw was What Goes Up. This is a platformer where the normal mechanic of gravity has been taken away. Instead when you move off into space you start doing flips. This changes it from a reaction based game into a puzzle one, as you need to carefully manage your vertical movement so get through the levels. It is a great length and the levels build up showing off lots of ideas which this core mechanic. It is also incredibly polished with the art and sound effects rounding out the mechanic well.
TowerBag, GMTK Jam 2019
For Game Makers Tool Kit Jam 2019 the theme was 'Only One'. There were lots of examples of only one bullet or only one life. The one that stood out to me was similar to What Goes Up where it changed a genre in an interesting way.
TowerBag is a tower defence game where you only have one tower. Instead of layout out an impressive fortress along paths, you need to pick up and carry your single tower to where it is required. In an inspired design decision, you also need to take it to an upgrade area to make it stronger. This means you have to carefully choose between doing damage now and falling behind or upgrading but creating a wave that you need to catch up on. It is quite short but very polished and I think it could easily be expanded into a whole game.
The theme for Game Makers Tool Kit Jam 2020 was 'Out of Control'. There were a number of games which took away or limited the controls of the player, or were high paced as you struggled to hang on. Maybe it was because it was a bit more sedate but I really enjoyed Baaaaad Neighbourhood. This is a simple game where you let animals out of your barn to go and damage the neighbourhood. Your only control is a limited amount of firecrackers which move them away or hay which they move towards. You get points for each item you break of your neighbours but lose points if the animals break items in your own back yard. The art is great and it is just the right length for the gameplay.
Every game jam is an opportunity not just to extend yourself and try new ideas but also to see what others have come up with. Providing feedback on what you enjoyed is a great motivator and helps build the comradery around the jam.