Game Jams and Challenges:
A Portfolio Gamechanger
So you have a portfolio. That's amazing. Your art/code/designs/other material look great and you are confident about the quality of your creations.

But does that mean you can work in the games industry?

A collection of solo works is already a great start. It shows you can complete tasks
  • Independently
  • In your own/preferred style
  • At your own pace
  • Under full creative control
But is that good enough to get you noticed by potential recruiters, and to impress them?…

If you want to be considered by a game studio, there are some qualities that your portfolio needs to display which can't be gained by going it alone. Studios are not only looking at the quality of the work when they look at a portfolio; they are looking at the quality of the candidate.

This is where game jams and challenges come in. They provide variety to your portfolio, professional credibility, a chance to test your capacity of working in a team, room to grow your projects, and a means to showcase them.

When you are asked to adapt to conditions chosen by others, you can learn a lot. Not being able to control a project's duration, its thematic approach, or the used methods and tools brings you out of your comfort zone, and allows you to test yourself there. Aside from what you can learn about yourself, they also show others what you're capable of.

They show you can
  • Adapt your work to other styles
  • Understand new parameters
  • Follow a joint creative direction
  • Be inspired by unfamiliar themes

Some of these happenings are also great social events, where you can let your personal professional brand shine. At them you can meet up with, or be noticed by studio recruiters, studio team leads, indie publishers, or even potential teammates for old or new projects.

In addition to boosting your portfolio, working in such projects can help beef up your CV and what recruiters understand about you as a potential worker. If you don't have work experience within the industry yet, game jam projects are particularly beneficial to have in your resume.

Recruiters understand that you can
  • Collaborate efficiently with others
  • Independently do assigned tasks
  • Meet a schedule & follow through
  • Plan and work on a remote basis
  • Actively build your expertise

Game jams don't have to be the end of your concepts, either. You can take things further and beyond the jam, competition, or contest. If you want to flex a finished/shipped game, game jam and challenge games can be turned into a complete product you can make and market. You can complete and ship them as a solo dev, with your jam team or a new one, or with the help of a publisher.

Some Final Tips
  • Avoid jams promoting 'crunch'
  • Choose team members wisely
  • T&Cs: protect your copyrights
  • Your resume is important too

All jams and challenges aren't made equal. Remember to always gauge what an event can do for you as a developer, for your work, and your professional image. Remember to keep an eye out for exploitation, and not neglect your CV and cover letters. Above all, remember that life is a learning process. Go out there, learn, and have fun!