What is Global Game Jam
In short, GGJ is a weekend-long event that starts at 5:00 PM Friday and ends at 3:00 PM on Sunday. Within that 46 hours, participants form teams and each team creates a game that is based on an announced theme. The IUSB Global Game Jam event, in my opinion, an unqualified success. How did we go from largely a group of strangers to two teams that produced I Dream of Oleg the Unicorn and Heart Maze? This post has some of those observations and some suggestions for your “real” work.
A Purpose – The goal of the weekend was to create a game in 46 hours. The goal was unambiguous. People who were not interested in supporting that purpose were not present. And we weren’t just a group of folks individuals that were “working.” The purpose allowed us to really get excited about what we were doing.
Embracing Diversity – The event, and fellow participants, welcomed participants who were interested in making a game. Period. Game creation requires a wide range of skills; music, art, software, testing, imagination, organization, and many more. We collectively found ways to contribute, and to encourage others to contribute.
Loose Organization – The work we had to do was made visible and tracked. A light-weight backlog was on a whiteboard, the name of the person who took on the task was next to the activity. Notice I didn’t say the person who was given the task.We made the work that had to be completed visible, and people took it on. We even had a local reporter for the newspaper hear that we needed the sound of a fish, and she offered up her heretofore under-appreciated “fish” sound to the cause. Loose organization creates room for people to contribute.
Effective Leadership – We had a leader emerge on the team. The leader kept the goal of the weekend in front of us. Ideas were welcomed. Some of those ideas made it into the game, and others were struck from the plan as the weekend went on. The presence of the goal and a leader who could help the team decide, allowed for prioritization of the various ideas.
Light Mood – I have participated in similar weekend-long events. One reflection on this event relative to the others is that I left Global Game Jam feeling fairly relaxed. While I enjoyed participating in the 2011 Grand Rapids Give Camp and local Startup Weekends, they seemed much more exhausting. Don’t get me wrong; both Give Camp and Startup Weekend were excellent events. But, the mood was much lighter during Game Jam, despite having a similar weekend-long event with a hard deadline.
Make Your Work Jam
Take the lessons from Global Game Jam, and look for ways to apply them to your work, and improve the effectiveness of your teams:
- Make sure that the team has a purpose, and that it is kept in front of the team. If you don’t know what the purpose is, go find it.
- Embrace the diversity of skills and perspectives on your team, and celebrate them. People likely have hidden talents that will make your team stronger. Create space for those talents to emerge.
- Keep the organization of the work as light as possible. Remove what is unnecessary. Overweight organization is both productivity-killing and soul crushing.
- Build leadership skills on your teams. Build people who can help share a vision, and rally others around the common goal.
- Keep the mood light, and the energy high. Whether you are a team member, a stakeholder, or a manager, help foster a lighter mood on your team.
In conclusion, I want to take a moment to appreciate the team: Adam Valdez, Andrew Kroepel, Blake Robertson, Charlie Guse, Jen Purdy, Matt Forsythe, Matt Neumann, Sarah Gradeless, and Tim Bell. Your spirit and talent made a busy weekend very enjoyable.