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Best Game Jam Ideas for 2024 Game Jams

Inworld Team
December 06, 2023
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This is Part 2 of our three part series helping devs prepare for 2024 game jams. Read Part 1, which looks at 2024 game jam events, and Part 3, which covers how to implement AI NPCs into your game jam projects. 

Signing-up for a game jam is like diving into a whirlwind. Game jams are highly condensed periods of game development where creativity (and stress!) often thrive under time constraints. One of the biggest hurdles to a successful game jam, however, is the first one: coming up with game jam ideas. 

Not only do you have to come up with an idea that aligns with the theme – but it also has to have something that resonates with the judges, and it has to be achievable within the time allotted. Past game jam participants have created some impressive games. Games like Hungry Knight, the precursor to Hollow Knight, for example, came from Ludum Dare 27’s theme of ‘10 seconds. The game challenged players to defeat enemies and gather food before the 10 seconds ran out. Or consider SUPERHOT, which came from the 7DFPS Challenge in 2013, where time only moves when you move. 

Generating creative and innovative game jam ideas with the clock ticking requires a blend of inspiration and structure. Brainstorming aids and idea generators tailored specifically for game jams are a great way to help find the perfect game jam idea that will knock the judges’ proverbial socks off. 

In this post, we’ll walk you through the basics of  game jam ideation, give you tried-and-tested techniques that have fuel cutting-edge game jam ideas in gaming and help you create the best game possible within whatever ridiculously tight deadline you’ve signed yourself up for.

What makes a great game jam idea? 

Having the right idea is pivotal when it comes to game jams. The ideal game jam idea often has a few key attributes: 

  • Executable: You have limited time to execute your game jam concept so your idea can’t be overly ambitious or you’ll end up not executing the idea properly. Your game jam idea needs to consider the available resources, the time allotted, and the skill sets of the team or individual. A feasible idea is better than an unachievable one in every way.
  • Original: The last thing you want to do is present a game that looks like that presented by other teams – and that’s entirely possible when there are game jams with very specific themes. Originality in game jam projects is about presenting something fresh and innovative. It doesn't necessarily have to be a completely novel concept – rather, it's often about combining existing elements in a new and unique way. For example, you might create a first person shooter where the shooter is a circus clown trying to save kids from escaped animals. No one will be able to say they’ve played a game like that before!
  • On theme: The game jam’s theme gives you the benefit (and the curse!) of a constraint. It limits the scope of potential ideas but it also means that some of your great game jam ideas won’t be a fit. An great game jam idea aligns seamlessly with the theme, interpreting it in a compelling manner. 
  • Has a sticky game loop: A sticky gameplay loop refers to the addictive nature of a game's design. It’s what keeps players engaged, wanting to play ‘just one more time.’ You could stick with tried-and-true game loops like gathering resources in an RPG or branch out to new types of game loops. Regardless of what you decide, any great idea for a game jam needs to have a game loop that is captivating, challenging, and offers a rewarding experience for players.
  • Exciting: Whatever game jam idea you and your team settle on, it needs to evoke excitement. People should hear it and instantly want to play your game just to check it out. What’s exciting about it can vary though. It could be the narrative, mechanics, visuals, or overall concept. Excitement is critical for enthusiasm, both in the development process and among players.

Get help! Use a game jam idea generator

The good news is that you don’t have to come up with an idea all by yourself. Game jam idea generators are invaluable tools in your brainstorming process. Game jam idea generators come in a variety of forms – from simple randomized idea generators to sophisticated AI-driven assistants. 

Inworld AI - Video game ideas generator

Inworld isn’t first-and-foremost an idea generator – but you can use our platform that way! We created a Character Engine for powering AI NPCs and AI characters but as a demo of the wide variety of potential use cases for our tech, we created a character to be your own personal game jam ideas assistant.

  • Overview: Inworld created the Video Game Ideas Hero, an AI character that’s a retired video game hero who will help you find cool ideas for your next game. You can also  create your own customized brainstorming partner in our Studio.
  • Use Cases: Inworld's video game ideas generator is invaluable for brainstorming at all stages of game development, particularly for those who prefer conversational brainstorming. Available at any time, it’s a great fit for anyone who’s doing a solo game jam and wants someone to bounce ideas off of. Whether you’re  seeking inspiration for narratives, mechanics, or character development, it will help you find and develop the perfect game jam idea! 
  • Benefits: Inworld’s advantage as an ideas generator lies in its ability to be customized. Anyone can create their own game idea assistants to chat with for free. You can create an assistant who’s an expert in particular game genres and give them any personality you want. Want someone to yell at you to hurry up? You can create that for yourself. Prefer gentle encouragement? You can create that, too! 

Let's Make a Game: Game jam idea generator 

Let's Make a Game is another video game idea generator that’s great for game jams. If you’re looking for unique game ideas, Let’s Make a Game is there to help.

  • Overview: Let's Make a Game stands out by offering users random mashups of game mechanics, themes, and genres, helping developers in search of novel game ideas come up with truly unique combinations. You might never have considered making a multiplayer detective game set in a parallel universe until you logged onto Let’s Make a Game but it could just be the weird concept that wins the game jam. 
  • Use cases: This video game idea generator can be used in brainstorming sessions where your goal is to cycle through as many concepts as possible as quickly as possible. A new wacky combination of genre, rules, setting, and theme is at your fingertips with just one click.
  • Benefits: The biggest benefit of Let's Make a Game is in its capacity to generate a vast and diverse collection of ideas. This wealth of ideas just might jog the perfect game jam idea for you and your team. 

10 innovative game jam ideas for 2024

Creating an edge for yourself and your team in your next game jam involves embracing creativity and doing something truly innovative. 

While good game design is timeless, exploring cutting-edge ideas can set your game apart. Here are ten innovative game jam ideas for 2024:

Genre bending

Games like No Man’s Sky turned genres on their head by blending elements of survival, exploration, and open-world adventure games in a vast procedurally generated universe for players to explore. Think about ways you can do something similar on a much smaller scale for an unconventional (and exciting) gaming experience. 

Game jam ideas: 

  • A rhythm-based strategy game where players orchestrate battles by timing their actions to music. 
  • A racing game where players navigate tracks, not just in space, but also time. The track could even evolve and change based on historical eras visited during the race. 

Integrate new tech

Harness tech that people aren’t used to seeing in games or in particular kinds of games. For example, you might decide to use augmented reality to create a puzzle game or a first-person shooter. Or use AI NPCs powered by Inworld’s Character Engine to enable voice-to-voice interactions and new game mechanics that can easily be created in our Studio. Or better yet, combine the two with Niantic and Inworld’s easy-to-use Eight Wall modules for creating AI NPC interactions in AR and make a game like Wol. Being the first to do something with new tech is a great way to set yourself apart from the rest of the participants. 

Game jam ideas: 

  • A narrative-driven RPG where players interact with mystical characters powered by AI NPCs. The player has to earn the trust of the quest giver to learn the secret of the universe. 
  • A game set in a fantasy tavern where players engage in conversational adventures with AI NPCs. Through dialogue and storytelling, players immerse themselves in the world, influencing the AI characters' backstories and the unfolding narrative.

Test new game mechanics

If you’ve ever played Outer Wilds, you remember the first playthrough well. The game’s use of a time loop mechanic was innovative and exciting to play. Consider innovating with game mechanics in your game jam submission to captivate judges and players alike. 

Game jam ideas:  

  • A platformer where gravity shifts based on the protagonist’s emotional state, altering the game world dynamically.
  • A puzzle game where players solve intricate challenges using time loops. Each completed loop reveals changes made in subsequent iterations, demanding strategic planning to manipulate time and progress.

Unlikely hero

Major video game releases very rarely have truly unlikely heroes – that’s because everyone is familiar with likely heroes and even the underdog heroes so they’re safe choices for games studios. But casting a tough guy as the player in a first-person shooter is more than a cliche. It’s stale. An unlikely hero is more likely to get attention in a game jam. 

Game jam ideas: 

  • An epic quest game with a tech-savvy grandmother who discovers a hidden gaming world within her vintage console. Navigate through retro-themed challenges and conquer nostalgic foes.
  • An adventure game starring unassuming office worker who, after hours, transforms into a stealthy ninja, sneaking through corporate offices to uncover mysteries and solve puzzles without raising suspicion

Constraints 

Embrace constraints to add to the challenge. The game SUPERHOT, which was created during a game jam, took that to heart and made a constraint where time moves only when the player moves. This unique time-based mechanic imposed a constraint that transformed standard FPS gameplay into a strategic puzzle, offering a distinct and engaging experience. 

Game jam ideas: 

  • A game where players control a character with limited visibility, relying on sound cues to navigate a labyrinth.
  • A game where the gameplay mechanics change or evolve at set intervals, creating different phases or challenges throughout the game. The constraint of time-based evolution can add dynamic and unpredictable elements to gameplay.

Be serious

Tackle serious topics through gaming narratives to evoke powerful emotions. For example, one of the most talked about games by game researchers is Paper, Please. Set in a border checkpoint, the player assumes the role of an immigration officer. The game imposes constraints in the form of bureaucratic rules and limited resources challenging the player to make moral decisions within strict regulations. It’s thought-provoking and sticks with you for a long-time. 

Game jam ideas:  

  • A narrative-driven game focused on the refugee experience, where players embark on a perilous journey, facing obstacles and making tough decisions to seek safety and a new home. Highlight the resilience and hardships faced by refugees.
  • A game that addresses climate change and environmental sustainability. Players embark on a mission to restore a deteriorating planet, making choices that impact the environment and raising awareness about conservation.

Be humorous

Infuse humor into gameplay for a memorable experience. Games like Borderlands stand out for their irreverent and over-the-top humor. The game combines a post-apocalyptic setting with absurd humor, quirky characters, and ridiculous weapon names, creating a comedic and action-packed experience.

Game jam ideas: 

  • An invasion game by amateur alien invaders. Players take on the role of inept aliens attempting to conquer Earth with absurd gadgets and clumsy tactics. Players navigate through comedic scenarios, causing chaos while trying to take over the planet.
  • An adventure game where you play as a hapless office worker navigating through an office filled with fantasy-themed challenges. Complete quests like slaying the printer dragon or navigating through the maze-like cubicles.

Unique art style

One of the best ways to stand out is visually. Choose an unconventional art style like the platform-adventure game Gris did. Or go in a minimalist art direction like Journey. Like retro styles? Consider taking a page from old-school animation like Cuphead. Choose a distinctive art style and go in that direction! 

Game jam ideas: 

  • A hand-drawn adventure with surreal, dream-like visuals transporting players to an otherworldly realm.
  • An art style resembling paper cutouts and dioramas. Use layers of textured paper-like visuals to craft characters and environments, giving the game a tactile and charming appearance.

Use familiar stories

You have a limited amount of time to convey your game idea and narrative so why not use well-known characters and stories? Playfully reimagine out-of-copyright IPs for intriguing gameplay. You can choose from things like fairy tales, the works of Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, Alice of Wonderland, or even Winnie the Pooh. 

Game jam ideas: 

  • A rhythm or music-based game featuring compositions from classical musicians whose works are in the public domain. Use iconic classical music pieces to build gameplay mechanics or narrative elements.
  • A game set within famous paintings or artworks in the public domain. Allow players to explore and interact with the worlds depicted in renowned paintings like Van Gogh's ‘Starry Night’ or Da Vinci's ‘Mona Lisa.’

Be weird

Embrace the bizarre for your game jam idea and give players an unforgettable experience. For example, games like Doki Doki Literature Club took players for a wild ride. Initially appearing to be a dating simulator, the game subverts expectations, diving into psychological horror with metafictional elements, breaking the fourth wall, and employing unsettling narrative twists. Or consider the Goat Simulator. A sandbox-style game where players control a goat with intentionally glitchy and unpredictable physics, the game famously leads to absurd and humorous scenarios as the goat wreaks havoc.

Game jam ideas: 

  • A narrative-driven game where players explore a world filled with bizarre conspiracies and outlandish theories. Unravel mysteries and navigate through absurd scenarios..
  • A game that parodies reality TV shows with nonsensical challenges and contestants. Players compete in outlandish competitions set in absurd scenarios.

Want to implement AI NPCs in your game? 

Once you settle on your game jam idea, you won’t have a ton of time to implement it. That’s where AI NPCs can help. One of our customers asked their intern with little gaming experience to implement their AI NPCs. If the intern could do it in less than a week, it’s definitely executable in a game jam!

Check out Part 3 of our series where we take you through a crash course in how to implement AI NPCs on a time limit! Or, if you missed it, read Part 1 where we look at the best 2024 game jam events.

Get started learning about and implementing AI NPCs today! Sign up for Inworld’s Studio, read our Docs, or join our Discord.

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