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  • 9 Things I Learned About Game Jams As An Outsider

    - Nida Ahmad

  • 6. UX and testing are huge part.

    It's great when your game is functional, but is it fun?

    It's interesting that UX is an area that is overlooked. Thinking about what experience you want the player to have is a core part of the design. Missing it out means there can be a disparity between the design of your game and what your player actually experiences. So what can you do?

    • Ask yourself: What do you want the player to feel, learn and get our of your game? What goals do they have and what makes them want to play? How can you get them to feel these things? Will players understand what they need to do? Is the friction intentional or a bug? Is this accessible? Coming from a UX analysis background, these are some questions I ask when I test builds and their usability.
    • Are the developers taking into account the impact of their design choices? Looking outside of your bubble is paramount to progress, as is understanding what you think players would do versus what they actually do, which will be different. For example, I often see problems with the onboarding process, because it's assumed that what the player intuitively knows what to do when playing. There is a bias that because you know how to play, the play will too. Incorrect assumptions, not being objective and biases can be harmful.
    • Many don't feel ready enough to have their build tested because perfectionism is a thing. But testing and iterating on your game is one of the best things you can do and can be a quick and effective feedback collection period. It's scary, but worth it - have someone test after your first build rather than later avoids flaws becoming too complex. Do not put it off because of time pressures as not including it may increase your workload later on.
    • If you're not doing programming or design, ask if you can play through the game and tell your team what you (as a player) don't understand but also love. Collecting lots of feedback helps!

    After many iterations, this is the overall look my team came up with for our game.

    7. It's not unusual to end up with a game you're not fully that happy with.

    The end goal isn't about winning or creating the best game ever. Your game will not be perfect, it may have bugs or crash at certain points and that's okay! Flip the situation and think about what you gained rather than what you didn't, being competitive can make things worse. You:

    • gained new perspectives on how to solve problems and came up with new ideas
    • discovered new skills you didn't know you had
    • showed yourself that you can do a project in a short given space of time and improve on it
    • collaborated with some great people in a team
    • worked under pressure and made progress
    • spent time into nurturing the creative part of yourself

    You did a great job, choosing to commit to a project, commiting to a deadline and pushing yourself at levels that you felt comfortable.

    8. You may realise that game jams aren't your thing - that's okay!

    These events are great at reviving creativity, inspiration and the like in a supportive environment however they're not the only way. Being in that creative atmosphere can be motivating but if it's too much it's okay to leave and try again another time or find another development activity works better.

    Maybe participate in online only jams, try out #dailydev, play people's games from game jams and derive some inspiration. Even if you choose to participate again or not, you exposed yourself to a new way of learning and creating that you can take back to other projects. 

    9. All advice is bad advice ~ a great point from Rami Ismail (@tha_rami) during his talk after the jam.

    These are insights based on one person's perspective, so what I state as ‘good' or ‘bad' is reliant on my subjective experience. See what information here you feel you can apply to yourself, whereas other parts may not be as applicable. It really is about devising your own space and seeing what suits you going forward!

    Game jams like other activities are awesome for self development, they're a great opportunity to let loose and make anything and everything. No matter how things turn out, there are always so many takeaways and you never know what might come out of it!


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