This weekend, I attended the Global Game Jam (GGJ for short) at the Unity HQs in San Francisco. The GGJ is a distributed, global hackathon where teams produce a game over the course of the weekend.  This year, the major sites hosting included Facebook, Google, and Unity, among others. Bath Buddies is a virtual reality game set in a bathtub, where two players have to coordinate in order to defend the Rubber Ducky from the tyranny of toy pirate ships and torpedo launching underwater subs. The game is free to download from that link and all the code is open sourced and available for you to see, although a lot of it is admittedly hacky. Our team was comprised of 6 people – Jono, Erik, Alex, Quinton, Nicholas, and I. Between the three of us we had four programmers, one modeler, and a composer.

View of “Commander” view from outside VR on the computer screen.

Overall, our project was a great hit — although it was hard to explain at the beginning (we didn’t have time to do a tutorial!), once people got it, they really had a blast playing.

You can find information about our project, Bath Buddies, here.

Hackathons, you attend go to them.

Anyone in tech should seriously consider attending hackathons regularly. It’s an incredibly efficient use of time, if you structure you weekend correctly. Here are a few reasons why you should attend hackathons.

  • Learn more about starting a company than almost any other activity.
    • Team Formation – At the beginning, you’ll find a group of people that you gel well with and start working on an idea.
    • Ideation/Design – You’ll have the opportunity to brainstorm and decide as a team what you’ll spend the rest of the weekend working o
    • Scoping – You’ll need to scope down your project properly, especially given most hackathons are 1 – 2 days, in order to finish
    • Development – The bulk of your time will be spent developing your project!
    • Presentation – You’ll typically either give a presentation about your project, or talk about it
    • User Testing – You’ll get to see people actually test your product and get real feedback
  • Learn to collaborate, and who you’d like to collaborate with – You will be working with several people, some perhaps, you’ve never met before. You’ll be forced to compromise, and debate, and work together. Ultimately, in these environments, it quickly becomes clear how well you will gel with the people you are working with. If there is someone you are considering for a long term project, or as a Cofounder, for example, invite them to a hackathon!
  • Accelerated skill learning – Whatever you end up working on, you’ll definitely learn a ton about how to do it. The time pressure forces you to think on your feet, and stay on the grind. Plus, if you choose your team wisely, you’ll each end up benefiting from each other’s experience.
  • Networking – You’ll get to meet tons of like minded people that you could potentially work on projects with again in the future! More importantly, you’ll actually get to know them over the course of the weekend. If you are like me, networking events can seem contrived and awkward. Not so with hackathons! A word to the wise, do not go to a hackathon with the express goal of networking and meeting people. Do the work, and the networking comes naturally. Nobody wants someone that spends the whole time hanging out and distracting other people.

Tips for having a great hack

  • Find a well organized hackathon, especially for your first one. Large well established hackathons tend to be well structured and lead to better experiences. Ask around and do your research.
  • Find a team at the hack, or bring a friend, but try not to work alone. The whole point of a hackathon is to meet people and collaborate on awesome projects!
  • Try to diversify your team. While most hackathons tend to have a fair amount of developers, make sure you have some other talent on your team. Especially if it’s a game jam, having a well rounded perspective is super important for success.
  • Everyone at a hack is volunteering their weekend. Don’t be that guy that tries to own the entire project and order people around. Try to let ideas flourish and let every one on the team have their voice heard.
  • Work hard, but get sleep. You don’t want to crash during crunch time, an hour before submission

That’s it for this week!

Categories: Uncategorized