The 35th Ludum Dare game jam begins in a little less than 4 weeks from today, and I challenge you to participate in this event.
In case you have no idea what I am talking about, the Ludum Dare is 48 or 72 hour game jam that happens 3 times per year. In short, you build a game in a weekend. I could go into a lengthy explanation of the rules but you can check those out here: http://ludumdare.com/compo/faq/.
I've issued this challenge a few times in the 2 years that I've been participating in this event. Ludum Dare 35 will be my 6th go at it. Only a few people I know of have taken me up on the challenge, but I am not sure why. I get energized just thinking about it. When the week comes I should probably take it off because I find it difficult to focus on anything but the pending challenge. The actual weekend is usually quite brutal as I struggle against time and the muse to put together something that remotely resembles a game, but when I am done there is nothing more satisfying. I make this challenge because I want to share with the world something that I have found that has brought happiness and excitement into my life.
The few friend that have participated haven't quite taken to it as strongly as I have. One of them actually placed in the top 5 in the audio category his second time through. I think he may have felt the same rush that I do in this event. He actually had a t-shirt made to celebrate his game. Despite being quite envious of his accomplishment I am happy that he was able to produce something he can be proud of. I want that for everyone.
I've noticed that a number of people hold the irrational fear that they would not be able to create a game in a weekend. I hear this same thing when I talk to people about the fact that I sometimes fasting for 36 hours at a time. I hear them say "I could never do something like that," but, believe me, you can. Parkinson's law states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. While this isn't really a law, the adage has much truth behind it. If you commit to building a game in 48 hours you will build a game in 48 hours. Your first game might be quite terrible, or it may not even be a game at all (as was the case with my first "game"), but you will get something done.
The programmers I know worry about their art skills. This may be a barrier to building an aesthetically pleasing game, but it is not a barrier to creating a game. If you've never looked up the roguelike genre, purists in that realm love plain old ASCII representations of things. Every programmer has the ability to do a game like this. There are plenty of people who build command line games. Some use minimal shapes. Programmer art is just fine! One time I even saw someone make a story game using PDF as the platform, that was some innovation. Graphics are just one category of many in the Ludum Dare... don't let this be an excuse.
What is beautiful about the Ludum Dare is that allows you to be freely creative. Many people claim they are not creative. My wife, for example, is adamant that she does not have a creative bone in her body. This is a lie that people tell themselves. Every one of us starts life with unlimited creativity, and we never lose it. I do not know of a single child that holds themselves back from drawing, singing, story telling, or any other artistic expression because they worry they might not be creative. What separates adults from children is the fear of criticism. As adults we suppress creative pursuits because of this fear. We don't want to experience the pain of another person telling us our work is awful or uninspired. So we don't create at all... and that is a damn shame. Remember, it is not the critic that counts...
The community around Ludum Dare is quite amazing. I would wager that it is one of the most supportive and positive communities on the internet. People you have participated are allowed to rate and comment on your game, and I've never received been subject to anything hurtful. Criticism is constructive. I've never heard "the controls suck, never make games again", but I have heard "The controls are a bit hard to understand, but I really like...". People expect these games to be half-baked because of the constraints, and so the focus seems to focus entirely on what little bits of amazing you were able to put together given the situation. There is probably no better place to open yourself up to a creative pursuit.
I better end this before I begin to ramble. You get my point. The 35th Ludum Dare is 4 weeks from today. However, it is starting right now. The lead up to this event is part of the fun. Theme submission is currently open. Start an account and submit 3 themes. You never know when your theme might make it to the top!
I hope you'll seriously consider doing this. Thanks for reading!