What is a gamejam?
Wikipedia defines it as “It is a gathering of people for the purpose of planning, designing, and creating one or more games within a short span of time, usually ranging between 24 and 72 hours, and some even longer.The theme is usually announced shortly before the event begins, in order to discourage participants from planning for the event beforehand and from using previously-developed material.”
The importance of the timeframe seems to be the defining characteristic of the competition. You have a finite time to create a game to a theme or criteria. Also, the idea is that you create something new from scratch, just for the competition.
What is a gamejam in Dreams?
Every two weeks Mm release a theme. Creators can enter any level, Dream, character, scene, artwork into the Gamejam. It does not have to have been made for the gamejam and can be weeks, months ( or as we get further down the line years )old, it does not have to match the theme, it does not have to have been 100% made by you, and it does not have to be a game.
So is it a gamejam?
No. I do not think it is. People are entering random rubbish that does not fit the theme and some of these entries are literally empty. Others are entering old levels that fit the theme, but were not made in the 2 weeks of the jam. And the winners of the gamejams have been generally artwork. Single scenes, sometimes with animation but generally static. Hardly ever a game. Games actually do very badly.
There are people who work hard to get something ready within the 2 weeks of the Gamejam. What is disheartening is that someone could win with a creation that they made over many months. And there is nothing to stop this. There is also nothing to stop people entering other peoples levels within their own Dream framework, and as it is anonymous you have no way of seeing the credits to know it is a remix or contains work of another creator than the one who entered.
Winners of gamejams get more attention for plays and thumbs up because of increased visibility. That is the prize, it is to be more visible in the Dreamiverse. However, as a competition I do not believe that the correct levels are appearing at the top of the voting. I also have very grave doubts about how many people actually take part in the voting itself – and how many levels get a fair showing to be voted on.
I think the rules around them (there are none) make this an unfair competition. I think the fact that artworks tend to win every Gamejam suggests that people spend literally seconds on every entry – and dont vote for the more complex (and to my mind more worthy) entries that they have to play. Also, when you are competing with creations that were made months ago, and that have had countless revisions over that time, and could have been made with a lot longer than a two week timeframe it makes a nonsense of the definition of Gamejam. The current gamejam contains an entry Haus of Bevis which is currently in the top 100 thumbed up levels and was created during the Beta, revised and relaunched in April 2019. How can this possibly be fair to those levels made in 2 weeks?
Should the gamejams be scrapped?
I think it is up to individuals to decide whether it is worth competing in these fortnightly “show and tells”. I like the idea of a theme to inspire creativity. Should it be a competition though? Should there be winners and losers? If there are people who want to continue with this then it should continue, but I dont think they should be calling it a Gamejam. I may not bother any more because it takes a lot of effort to make something decent, and I am seeing entries do better that just do not conform to the theme, the timeframe or the spirit of the Gamejam. If more top 100 levels are going to get entered into these competitions then it makes a mockery of the purpose of it – which I believed was to get people making new and interesting things, and challenging themselves a bit. I can happily set my own challenges, so I dont need the Gamejams. I also have no worries about visibility as my creations may not get thumbs up, but they are definitely getting used, as I see them all the time. That is all the affirmation I need.