LibreJam - FSF* should host a Libre Game development tournament!

Michael McMahon michael at
Mon Jan 3 16:39:15 UTC 2022


These game jam threads are an interesting read, but there are some 
misunderstandings about what the purpose of a game jam is in this thread 
and the other thread Global Game Jam.  This is long, but I hope it is 

If anyone with experience running a game jam wants to host a game jam in 
connection with LibrePlanet conference, reach out to the FSF Campaigns 
team at campaigns at to get this idea rolling. The small FSF staff 
typically all has roles to play during the conference so this task would 
need to come from volunteers if you are serious about making it happen.  
None of the FSF staff have experience running a game jam that I am aware 
of.  A libre game jam related to LibrePlanet would probably need to be 
before the conference to not distract from the talks.  The games could 
be presented during the Lightning Talks portion of the conference.

A jam is usually a very short period of time where various groups of 
people with different skill sets compete to make something surrounding a 
theme or set of restrictions.  The theme and restrictions are mechanisms 
to mitigate groups from using the jam to release or popularize something 
that they have been secretly working on for months.  The purpose of a 
jam is education, socialization, and friendly competition while gaining 
functional experience through creating something in an area that they 
are interested in.  There are many different types of jams.  Ones that 
are related to these threads are game jams and game art jams [1]. A game 
jam usually results in several people hacking on a concept and pulling 
all-nighters to deliver a somewhat functional concept of a game.  A game 
jam team might be composed of programmers, writers, and artists.  A game 
art jam is where teams of artists create art assets that can be used by 
other games.

Game jam games are not expected to result in complete games, package 
their software in repositories, continue development after the jam, or 
become AAA games.  To demand or expect these things from a game jam is 
an unreasonable expectation.  A successful Libre Game Jam should only be 
expected to produce game concepts released under a free software 
compatible license using free culture assets where the majority of 
participants learn something through the process.  Anything else would 
be going above and beyond what is typically expected from a jam.

There are a great deal of free software games that have come out of 
various game jams over the years since the trend began.  Even game jams 
that are not explicitly focused around free software have developed many 
free software games.  If you can find the code and the licensing is 
correct or correctable, anyone can pick up where they left off.  Keep in 
mind that fixing a licensing issue becomes increasingly difficult as 
time passes as getting in contact with a dissolved team or minors is 

In order for amateur programmers or hobbyists to make a game technical 
demonstration in 48 hours or one week, the code is often similar to 
spaghetti.  The short time frame requires taking shortcuts and hacks to 
make something fast [2].  To continue development on a game jam game, 
the first step would probably require refactoring the code which takes 
development time.  The code is usually is found in an archive file 
released by the game jam organizers so continued development would need 
to move to a software forge as well.

Packaging software for various distributions is a different set of 
skills than would normally be expected from a group of game development 
volunteers with no sleep.  Organizers of a such an event could plan to 
take these additional steps with the games or mentor the winners through 
the process.  If the licensing checks out, there is nothing stopping 
anyone from packaging and maintaining the games in their distribution of 
choice.  Someone could start the first Game Package Jam where groups 
compete to see who can upstream the most libre games to the Debian 
repositories based around a certain theme.

Other creative game jam concepts with a focused scope:

Libre Game License Jam where groups reach out to Game Jam repositories 
to fix or start licensing issues and pull requests.

Libre Game Fork Jam where groups fork libre game jam games and make 
improvements, retheme, or change to a completely different game.

Libre Game Doc Jam where groups find libre game jam games without 
documentation and write instructions about how to compile, play, or 
modify the game.  Many game jam games do not have any documentation as 
the groups would typically include the what, why, and how through a 
presentation while showing the game to judges. These ceremonies are 
typically done in person and not published so the documentation is lost.

Libre Game Mod Jam where groups mod games with extension capabilities 
such as Minetest.

Libre Level Jam where groups make level packs for libre games.

Disclaimer: I have never participated in a game jam, but I have searched 
through many hundreds of game jam games to find materials for teaching 
programming to children.


[2] Fast, Good, or Cheap: Pick Two.,_fast_and_cheap

Michael McMahon | Web Developer, Free Software Foundation
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