Game jams are increasing in popularity. They have not been around all that long. For a long period of time, the only game jam I was aware of was Ludum Dare. As the desire to build cool games grew in popularity and tools made it more accessible, so did the desire to participate in these types of events. They are great for learning, a lot of fun, and might eventually help your career. Below are my suggestions, in order of which ones I feel are most valuable to beginners.

1. Global Game Jam

The Global Game Jam really sets itself apart from most other game jams I have been a part of. It is the only game jam that was in-person that I have participated in, which made it a lot of fun!

The Global Game Jam is hosted in numerous locations, but often found on many large college campuses around the world. There is often an age restriction, but at our school we hosted one that allowed participation of high school students with guardian signature.

The benefit of being in an educational setting is that it really is tailored towards being a helpful environment. Each location is required to have someone oversee the event, and often is there to assist those participating with technical difficulties as well as advice and help on their project when they are able to do so.

At our event, we had several people who had never built games before participate. They were still able to contribute with art and story. This allowed them to feel a part of their teams. When they were stuck, or even if they weren’t sure how to do something, there were teammates nearby that could hopefully help them walk through it.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well Global Game Jam went for those that were entire beginners. Even with absolute beginners, it was clear that the support provided by team members allowed teams to be successful and have awesome games at the end of the game jam.

2. Ludum Dare

Ludum Dare has been around for twenty years. I certainly was not building games that long ago. The tools have changed and the game jam scene is more accessible with tools than ever before. If you are new and not sure what tools to use, here are some tools for game development that I recommend.

The age of Ludum Dare can hopefully lead to some confident that it is going to be well organized. The development might take place over a couple of days, but in the weeks leading up to it the community votes on the theme. The weeks following, the games are judged by other participants. The more you vote on others games, the more likely your game will receive ratings as well.

In addition, the following has allowed for some pretty cool Twitch streams in which streamers will play and rate games live. This is interesting because you can be there present while someone plays your game and provides you feedback. A bit nerve-wrecking, but it’s part of the experience.

One of the primary reasons I recommend Ludum Dare for beginners though, is because you can likely find a team to participate with. There are so many participants, a simple post about looking for a team and your skillset will likely lead to finding an active group. This means that you will likely get some help with areas you are weakest in.

3. Engine Specific Game Jams

From a beginner perspective, I would consider engine specific game jams as viable options for beginners. In the early stages of learning game development, there will be a lot of hurdles to overcome. When you throw on a time constraint on it, it can quickly become frustrating. The key here is finding help quickly and easily. It makes it less of a pain point.

Engine specific game jams will likely have others involved that can help you out. They seem to be a bit more  casual than most of the other game jams I have participated in. They might extend the time a bit in many circumstances.

One of the major perks is that if it is put on by the game engine company such as Unity or Unreal, there is very often prizes involved. They want to see really awesome projects built with their software, and will often reward those that build cool games with it.

I recommend not going too wrapped up into the prizes though. In my experience, those that have prizes involved attract people who have been developing  for years. Not to say you cannot beat them, but it would be highly unlikely as a beginner. Go into it for the learning and the fun, and I don’t think you will be disappointed.

4. GMTK Game Jams

This is another really popular one. I do not have it high on the list because I most often see solo developers participate and GMTK is pretty “heady” in terms of theory. It is always very well organized, and the best games do receive some exposure.

For a beginner, I would look for something that has quite a bit of participation. I would think that if all you want to do is be alone and build cool stuff, you could do that anytime outside of a game jam. The part that is fun about a game jam is the collaborative effort and feedback you might get. For this reason, GMTK game jam is another great choice.

GMTK is all about providing detailed game theory analysis. This is what they do on that YouTube channel. When it comes to picking games that he features, he’s always looking for a twist on the gameplay. I have seen some really good games come out of the game jam though, and it’s always interesting to see peoples interpretation of the theme.

5. Holiday Jams

Admittedly, I have not participated in a lot of these. The benefit though is that many people have quite a bit of time on specific holidays. Example, Spring Break there is always a game jam that takes place. Over Christmas break, there is a game jam that generally spans that time frame. The benefit to you is that if you are busy on time, but want to have a little fun over a holiday, it is a good option to know it’s going to fall at the perfect time.

Also, you generally know that the theme will be fitting for the holiday. Of course in October, you will see more of a horror / Halloween game jam. During Christmas time, something involving Santa is always appropriate. For you, you can probably start thinking about a game well before the game jam is opened since the theme is generally known in advance.

6. YouTuber’s Game Jams

Outside of GMTK, a lot of popular YouTuber’s, particularly those involved in Game Development have their own game jams. As an example, Brackey’s, although retired from game development videos, still hosts an annual game jam.

They generally have quite a bit of participation. You will likely not find a team and it will likely have traditional rules of unknown themes and no limit on software usage, but this opens the door for you creating something of your interest.

They are generally well-organized and often have prizes. If you need a little help along the way, I have written the ultimate guide to game jams for beginners. This will be a perfect guide to help you along the way, even if you’re on your own.


Ultimately, I would highly recommend sticking with those game jams that are a bit larger. You will have better opportunities of finding a team. The benefit to joining a team as a beginner will be pretty important. You can likely find people that are strong in areas where you are weak. This increases you chances of being successful substantially. Best of luck on your journey of game jams!