Running the first online-only Galway Game Jam (w/livestream)

written by Galway, Galway Game Jam, gamejam, news

This event went surprisingly well. While it was organised in haste, in a bit of a last-minute bid to get a gamejam done in 2020, the community really came together around this one to make it a worthwhile endeavor.

Want to see the games made at this event? Check out itch.io/jam/galway-game-jam-16/entries

Organiser team

Brian (Another Ocean Music) joined the organiser team for this one, and really shined throughout the planning and running of the event. Brian brought in some fresh ideas and a lot of energy, which really helped the jammers and the team get together and be more effective. Well done Brian!

We discussed making an intro video for the jam and Brian suggested putting together an edit of footage from old gamejam games. Clearly a wining idea, I recorded some voice over and footage that I sent to Brian, who edited the whole thing together into a video. All in our spare time. You can watch the intro on the Galway Game Jam Youtube channel.

While short notice, I did want to ensure that the event was open to as many people as possible, so in following with diversity guidelines, we split the jam over two days over two weekends. While it is non-typical, in the end this worked out great!

Mentors

The main questions I asked myself when putting the this jam together were:

  • “Why do people enjoy going to a Galway Game Jam?”, and,
  • “Why would someone be interested in participating in this jam from home?”

From asking these questions, I knew we had to create a very compelling reason for people to join in the event. That’s when I thought of having a livestream with mentors.

We decided to focus on Discord as our primary digital “venue” for jammers to interact, along with a livestream of conversation and Q&A with gamedev mentors on Twitch that jammers could watch.

I had to figure out exactly what a “mentor” was and give people a concrete idea of the times that they would be needed. I contacted a few local gamedev friends, who were intrigued and happy to help. We quickly had a core experience for our event!

Once I had few mentors confirmed, I put out a broader call for mentors on social media channels for Irish game developers and got a few more people involved.

We put up theme suggestions and voting rounds to reduce the themes down to a top-three list This had a surprising effect of building excitement on our Discord server during the week leading up the the jam.

Soon we had enough mentors willing to do an hour commitment that we could run a solid day of livestreaming! This meant we had a core experience of an online event that everyone jamming could connect to. This makes the online-only jam “feel” more like a live event with other people actively engaged. That sense did in fact carry through the event, and was reported by people at the end. I’m delighted that it worked out!

Main challenges

We learned that there are many things missing from an online jam that you get for free at a venue-based jam. Mainly, there are communication benefits of close proximity to your team mates and production benefits from other people in the jam who you randomly encounter that might offer to lend a hand in solving any problems that you might get stuck on.

The main challenging point was team formation. Having a bunch of people online is not enough. We had to be very pro-active in getting people joining together into teams. Brian took the lead here and contacted people and teams directly, operating as a kind of “fixer”. This “Fixer” role essentially solved this problem, so our next online jam we will share this role among the organiser team and dedicate time for it on our schedule.

Energy! Organising and live-streaming is very tiring. Especially if you have been working all week and been putting together everything in your spare time. If possible, ensure you have a day after the event to recover. Maybe, if you can take a day off work *before* the event, do that too!

Discord worked out great but I’m putting it in the challenges here because it can be confusing for people who have no experience with it. We had lots of channels on our server, which makes it confusing and overwhelming. Before our next jam, we will likely prune our channels down to help avoid confusion. We will also be sharing an introduction video with our jammers in an email before the event starts.

We will be taking all the lessons learned from the online-only Galway Game Jam 16 with us into the next online jam – the Global Game Jam Galway.

See you there!