Game Jam Judging

So, sixty two games later, I've finished judging. It was great fun, and I learned a lot. I sat down to take a peek at a few entries, and then five hours later I looked up again. The things I've taken away from the experience are:

  • There are some very clever, inventive and hard working folks out there who can make astonishing stuff in just forty eight hours. Well done to the lot of you.
  • If you want the judges to like your game, make it very, very, easy for them to get to it. I had to download and run some games (which I'm always nervous about) and others plain didn't work. If you can find an easy way to get it going in a web browser you should do that. Quite a few entries made very good use of the Unity web player. Some folks had found free hosting that had advertising. I've lost count of the number of adverts I had to watch to get to games. If your game needs an install, consider making a video instead. I can get a better feel for the gameplay by watching a video rather than failing to make something work because I have the wrong library installed.
  • When you start building your game one of the first things you should add is the instruction screens. Some games had very poor help, others had none at all. I spent five minutes with one game trying to figure out what I was supposed to do. Now I understand that discovery can be part of a game mechanic, but leaving a player with no idea of how to get started will encourage them to walk away rather than put in any effort to play. If you put the help screens in first it makes it easier to get feedback too, in that you won't have to explain what the game is about to anyone who wants to have a go.
  • Some of the games told a story as they went along. I thought these were great. There's nothing like a narrative to make a game format interesting.  Even a simple "old school" mechanic can be really enlivened by a background story.
  • Don't worry about graphics if you've got good gameplay. Some games had really simple graphics that worked really well. While a certain amount of polish is nice, you need a strong core mechanic to make a great game.  Other games had amazing graphics and physics but no gameplay that I could get my teeth into.
  • I loved to see how much folk seem to have enjoyed making these things. The journey is a great one. Please, please, please publish the games if you can.

Thanks to the Meatly team for inviting me to judge, it was great fun.