Thesis: Game Jams for Learning

Thesis: Game Jams for Learning – Examining the pedagogical attitudes, ideas and experiences of game jam organizers in the Finnish game jam community

In my MA thesis for art education at Aalto University, I dug deeper into what makes game jams so darn good for learning.

Download the thesis for free on ResearchGate: [ResearchGate]

Abstract: Game jams are time-bounded game development events, often 48h hours in length, where people gather, form teams and create games. The games can be digital, like video games or mobile games, or physical, like board games; short or long; completed or mid-development — depending on the event design. Game jams can be open to people of any background: hobbyists, professionals, students, and complete beginners. For this thesis, eight game jam activists or game jam organizers were interviewed about their experiences, attitudes and ideas regarding learning at game jams. The study aims to find out how people learn at game jams, why, and what the pedagogy of game jams actually brings to the learner. It deals with questions of pedagogical assumptions, experiences and praxis. All of the interviewed had experiences of learning at jams, and some had experiences of teaching through or at jams as well. This study suggests that learning at game jams is practical and problem-based, and asymmetric in that not all jammers learn the same things. During game jams, participants can learn vital game development skills such as scoping, communication and prioritization, technical skills, and interpersonal skills. The interviewed saw game jams as a great opportunity to test new disciplines, hone existing skills and challenge themselves. Game jams could also foster metacognitive skills. The learning often happens in a subtle, unforced, solution-minded way. The process is open for experimentation and discovery. The learning is social, and the team, and other game jammers on site, is important to the learning of individual jammers as well. The interviewed valued the community around game jams too. On the whole, the interviewed expressed an enthusiastic and positive attitude toward learning at game jams, and saw many possibilities for integrating game jams into formal learning environments. Challenges include preserving the autonomy of the jammers, scheduling, and unrealistic expectations caused by lack of prior knowledge of game development. They saw many opportunities as well, and suggested ways to overcome the challenges. The interviewed also discuss good organization and social facilitation praxis, and game jam game development. The study suggests that game jams can be very potent for learning, and the interviewed experienced similar learning as prior research suggested. Since the study is focused on the Finnish jam community, studying other communities could prove interesting for further research, as well as the social and communal aspects of learning during game jams.