In a year of limited social interactions, events that bring communities together are more important than ever. Game jams are a way for the game development community to come together, develop new skills, test new mechanics, and get feedback from the community. While game jams are more accessible than ever, with an increasing number of online venues and hosts, this year has seen an explosion in participants with some of the most popular jams receiving more than double the previous number of participants.
Also, a growing number of YouTube communities are moving towards hosting their own game jams as well. Their jams are topping the charts for participation on sites like itch.io. This is pulling in large numbers of participants to the site and increasing overall interest in joining jams in general.
Beyond an increase in the desire for community, there has been an increase in ‘free-time’ as real-world activities have been limited or cancelled all together. This has led to people using that time to expand their knowledge and try new things. And no, I am not just talking about baking banana bread, though there is something special about making fresh breads at home. This trend has led to an uptick in people researching how to code and make games. For instance, tracking the metrics for the subreddits /r/godot, /r/Unity3D, and /r/gamedev, using https://frontpagemetrics.com/, shows the member growth over the last year has seen the total number of members double and the daily rate of new members increase as compared to 2018 – 2019.
Total subscribers for /r/godot, /r/Unity3d, /r/GameDev since 2018
Daily subscribers for /r/godot, /r/Unity3d, /r/GameDev since 2018
One of the best ways to learn is by doing and participating in game jams is a great way to have a structured goal / project idea to build towards. So, without further ado, here are the top game jams of 2020
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The world was in a very different place in January of 2020 and in person meetups were still plentiful across the globe putting this as the only in person game jam on this. Global Game Jam was founded in 2008 “as a project of the International Game Developers Association’s Game Education Special Interest Group” and the first jam was held in January of 2009. Some notable titles that were conceptualized as part of previous game jams are Screencheat, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, and Surgeon Simulator.
The 2020 Global Game Jam took place across the globe on January 31st and ran through February 2nd with the central theme of the jam being “Repair”. According to the jam statistics posted on the round-up page, “48,700 jammers attending 934 jam sites across the world in 118 countries” participated in the jam. Global Game Jam 2021 has been announced and will be an entirely virtual event due to the ongoing pandemic. Jammer sign ups start Dec 1st, 2020. You can sign up or check for the latest jam dates at https://globalgamejam.org/
Game Maker’s Toolkit or GMTK has to be one of the top YouTube channels based on game design. Each video is thoroughly thought out and oozes sincerity when it comes to player experience. The production quality and the soothing sounds of Mark Brown’s voice alone are enough to warrant checking out a video or two and with almost 1 million subscribers at the time of this writing it is no wonder that the GMTK game jam was the biggest game jam of 2020.
GMTK gam jam 2020 had a grand total of 18.3 thousand participants that submitted 5,333 games. Previously, the GMTK 2019 jam had ushered in 7,591 participants. The 2020 jam kicked off on July 10th and ran through July 12th giving jammers 48 hours to complete their game. The theme was “out of control”. With the completion of the jam a YouTube video was created for GMTK’s channel featuring Mark’s top picks and honorable mentions. Also, there was a flood of devlogs where other top YouTube creators had tried their hand at creating a game matching the theme.
Ludum Dare had two events in 2020, Ludum Dare 46 in April with 10,264 signups and Ludum Dare 47 in October with 6,662 signups. Ludum Dare is unique since it has two categories for submissions. The first being the jam which can be completed by an individual or a team and you can use any assets or code that you have on hand, this includes open source or purchased artwork or music. This is pretty much standard for most game jams. The second category you can submit under is the Compo which the entry is expected to be completed by an individual, in 48 hours, and using only code and assets created during those 48 hours. This is a tougher option that really tests your project management and game creation skills. Keep a look out for upcoming jams at https://ldjam.com/.
Brackeys is another prominent YouTube creator with 1.27 million subscribers, who recently announced his retirement from creating YouTube videos. Brackeys Jam also had two offerings this year, but these are weeklong jams giving participants a lot more flexibility with their schedules. The previous Brackeys game jam in February of 2019 had 1,795 participants and this year’s had a whopping 2,889 and 8,878 participants again showing the increased interest from developers. With Brackey’s retirement we do not know if or when the next jam will happen but keep an eye out on the Brackeys channel for any possible future updates.
Beginner’s Circle Jam was created with the idea that game jams should not promote a YouTube channel, social media account, or development studio. With the focus completely on developing the skills to make games, the jam is truly welcoming for beginners. The jam is brand new, with the first game jam taking place June 2020 with 97 participants, but it seems the development community has taken a liking with the most recent jam in October having 2,777 participants.
Mix and Jam is an up-and-coming YouTube channel based on recreating the mechanics of popular games, such as the God of War axe throw, the wall merge in A Link Between Worlds, and the movement in Celeste. The Mix and Game Jam follows this same principal with a theme involving mimicking popular gameplay mechanics. 2020’s theme was “mixing genres”. This is a great jam if you are looking for more guidance / requirements when making your game. Mix and Game Jam 2020 had over double the number of participants from the 2019 jam, 3,208 compared to 1,124. Keep an eye out for future jams by following Mix and Jam’s YouTube channel.
Vimlark is a self-proclaimed game jam addict who is a YouTube creator and Twitch streamer. A lot of his content involves game jams and the struggles he goes through while completing, or not completing them. It only makes sense that he would host his own game jam. This is another week-long jam which is probably due to all of Vimlark’s struggles with scheduling and wanting to give people more flexibility.
That is it for the best game jams of 2020. Hopefully, next year we can keep the momentum going. Leave us a comment below if you participated in any of these events or which ones you look forward to returning in 2021. Did we miss anything? Let us know down below and we will be sure to check it out going forward.
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