Hosting A Successful Game Jam

Two years ago I hosted my first game jam. This was my first time organizing something involving so many creative individuals. Since it was just friends gathered in my then tiny apartment there really wasn’t much pressure. The event itself was more of casual riffing and hanging out. This year, I helped host the IGDA Chicago Game Jam. I was used to participating in game jams, but had never planned anything on such a large scale. This blog post will hopefully outline what I thought helped make it a success.

Had a Strong Team

No one can plan a game jam by themselves. You need a strong team to get stuff done. This event would not have been successful with the strong team of the IGDA Chicago. Some people got the pizza, other awesome team members landed top speakers. I felt lucky to the Steve Kerr, to their Michael Jordan (That’s a Chicago basketball reference). I appreciate the judges, the local industry members, our great keynote speakers, and everyone who donated their time.

Solid Theme

For the game jam, our theme was death.  The theme was perfect since the game jam fell on the weekend before Halloween. At first I thought that the theme may have been too broad. I thought that most teams would create similar concepts because of this fact. (On Saturday morning, most people jokingly said that they were adding Death Metal into their game.) It turns out that this wasn’t a problem as everyone interpreted the theme in wildly different games.


Had the People Play the Games.

As Herm Edwards once said, “You play to win the game!” (Hello? that’s my second sports reference). Weirdly enough, most of the game jams that I attended did not encourage people to play each other’s game. Judges of the jams usually based the winners on the team presentations rather than how the games played. For this game jam, we made it a point to have the judges play the games before the teams presented. I think this helped them have a much better idea on what the teams were able to complete during the weekend. Other teams also got up, and played each other’s games. This was a much needed catharsis after a busy 2 and a half days. I think that the teams really enjoyed the camaraderie from actually playing. Seriously, ALL of the games were awesome. I really hope people continue these projects.


Planning and hosting a game jam was much different than being a participant. The experience was enjoyable for different reasons. It was awesome to look out and see the room be filled and know that I had a hand in it. I was still exhausted by the end of it, but it was nice to hang out instead of having to worry about bug hunting. At the same time, hosting a jam is a great responsibility. I wanted to make sure that everyone had a great time while maintaining the space that our gracious hosts let us use. I really want to host more jams in the future. Now that I have this experience under my belt, I’d love to host another. Until next year, fellow jammers!

Play The Games!


Thank You

Special shout out to the Nerdery for letting us use their great facility. We wouldn’t have had a such a successful event without it. Also, thank you to Eugene Jarvis who did the keynote. Kyle Bailey, Carter Dotson, and Dave Fulton for performing the difficult task of judging so many great games. Thanks to all of our industry mentors who stopped by to lend advice. Thanks to all of our sponsors for the great prizes provided as well.