Jam vs competition

I had it in my head that the difference was that there is voting in a competition and not in a jam – but there is voting in inkJam (inkJam 2022 starts this Friday). Maybe the voting is just necessary for Itch but there will be no announcement of results/winners.

The reason I ask is that in the new IFWiki events database we have separate event types for “competition” and “jam” (the others being “conference” and “meeting”). Maybe we didn’t get it quite right.

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Without voting authors do not get the “Thrill of competition and the agony of defeat.” No bragging rights. I guess voting and ranking are up to the organizers and the venue that hosts jam/comp. Itch.io jams do not have to be ranked, it is a check box.

I am definitely interested in others thoughts.

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Well, it lacks ECTOCOMP, that I will announce in a few days :wink:


So it does!

You could amend the existing Ectocomp page using the form here: Edit Software: Ectocomp - IFWiki

And also you could add a page for Ectocomp 2022 using the form here: Create Event: Ectocomp 2022 - IFWiki


In my view, one of the main or typical distinctions is that jams focus on creating the games during the event, which is why they often ask the participants to include a topic or theme which is kept secret before the start.

That can go hand in hand with being low-stakes and relaxed, but not necessarily. There are events called “jams” which are relatively high-stakes, like the “Epic MegaJam”, with voting by a panel of judges, and hardware and software prizes.

In the IF community, the closest equivalent to jams would traditionally be “Minicomps” (including Speed-IF and the time-limited form of EctoComp), as we often called them before the “game jam” term came up in the wider Indie game development scene and gained influence.

In contrast to jams, competitions (in my understanding of the term as mostly used in the IF community) typically impose no time limit – apart from the final deadline, of course. So, participants can start whenever they want.
(Consequently, one expects comp games to be polished, whereas jam games are usually cut some slack in that regard. But that’s a side effect rather than a defining feature.)


The various Adventuron and TALP game jams, hosted on itch, all had voting. As mentioned above, the main difference between a jam and a competition is that a jam usually specifies that the game is created entirely in the jam timeframe.


I don’t have IFWiki account :frowning: but we will fix it. Let’s wait to the official announcement.

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I’m inclined to go by what the organizers call it. If organizers call it a competition, or if it has “comp” in the name, we can call it a competition. Same with jam. (Maybe that still leaves a question about events that don’t call themselves either one?)

I’m not sure competitions and jams need to be listed under separate headings in the news on the front page, but the event type might make a difference on the wiki page of the actual competition, in the infobox. It looks neater to call IFComp an “Annual Competition” rather than an “Annual Competition/Jam.”


This makes some sense now. Voting makes an event a competition and a creation time limit makes it a jam. Something with both those features could be called either. Maybe something lacking either would also be a jam!

On IFWiki there’s a whole separate category for Minicomps, one that the founding fathers considered merging into the main Competitions category.

And while we’re on the subject of competition categories, I kinda want to get rid of Category:Minicomp. It’s a bit of a judgment call if a comp is a minicomp or not, and I’m not sure it helps anyone to have it as a separate category anyway. – David Welbourn00:53, 31 January 2008 (PST)

Maybe the same could be said for having a separate category for jams now.

So, are you saying we could just call them all competitions (for the purposes of event type, anyway)?

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I don’t know whether I have a fully formed opinion on how to proceed with IFWiki.

Some thoughts:

Having fine-grained categories is generally nice because it’s hard to know conclusively beforehand what people (writers, players, IF historians) might use them for.

And removing fine-grained categories feels a bit as if one is unnecessarily removing information. (As if one were in a library and took the record cards from several different boxes and threw them together into a bigger box.)

On the other hand, in cases where a specific category doesn’t serve much of a purpose, and just leads to miscategorizations, or to people/potential contributors agonizing over whether something falls into category A, B, or C, then one might as well leave it out from now on, and/or discourage people from using it in the future.

As a player:

  • I’d want to know which events are coming up for reviewing and judging/voting, regardless of whether it’s a comp/jam/minicomp.

  • I might want to look for long and very polished games from current or past events. This might ceteris paribus point me more to the competitions than to the jams and minicomps. (But of course, that could only serve as a heuristic. High-ranking jam games will usually be more polished than low-ranking comp games.)

As a writer:

  • I’d want to know in which events I might participate in the near future. It might be useful to see at a glance whether I can enter something I’ve already worked on (-> competition) or not (-> jam, usually). But I also don’t want to have to look in a lot of different places if I just want to know what’s coming up.

As a critic and historian:

  • I’d want to know what terms are used (and were used) to describe events.

  • I might want to gather knowledge about games which were made under specific comparable conditions, or something.

  • I might want to find an event, which I only vaguely remember, by its category.

As an event organizer or IFWiki contributor:

  • I’d want to know quickly how I should describe/enter an event in the wiki.

Maybe more people will chime in with possible use cases, so we can get a picture of what the categories can help to accomplish.


Maybe? Winter 2023 TADS Jam / Comp ?


There does seem to be a distinction between competitions and jams that doesn’t exist between competitions and mini-comps. So likely I’d keep the new Jam category to see what people put there, for now at least, but get rid of the Minicomp category.

It would complicate matters to let an event be called a jam and a competition though.

I think a “jam” is what the IF community calls “speed-IF” where the challenge is to create a specific type of work in a timeframe. These may be judged at the end, so it’s somewhat of a competition?

One issue is itch.io runs “jams” but doesn’t put any kind of mechanical parameters on entries (sort of by necessity) so site creators are free to enter any game on the site to any jam no matter when it was created or how long it’s existed. If you want to run any type of competition on itch, it’s called a “jam”. Technically what itch considers a “jam” is closer to a “showcase” of games potentially around a theme and more of a promotional tool, although many jam-runners do tend to run “make x game in x amount of time on this theme” and creators usually are like “I already have an existing x game on this theme” and enter it for visibility. I guess itch assumes runners will police their own entries.

You could group jam/minicomp/speed-IF together potentially with the definition “timed creation competitions”. “Jam” is a more pleasing term.

As opposed to “competition/showcase festival” (IFComp is a comp, Spring Thing is more of a showcase festival where judging is less the focus, EctoComp has a jam component) and pure “awards”.


  • 48-hour Film Festival is actually a jam for amateur filmmakers to make a short movie with very specific parameters in 48 hours which are then screened in movie theaters during a festival - and then there are “best___” awards, but the focus is more the creation process and showing the work.
    (Like Ectocomp’s “petit-mort” jam games)
  • Cannes is a film festival which solicits entries from creators that have been made in the past 12 months, can have been shown theatrically but not online or DVD, and equally focuses on showcasing the entered works and awarding promotional clout to the judged winning entries for wider release, so more of a “comp/competition”.
    (Like IFComp/Spring Thing)
  • The Oscars and Olivier awards are pure award ceremonies - although without direct creator submissions - (Oscar noms are determined by an academy) considering everything already released during the year as a potential entry, and with no formal screening period, just awarding “Best____” of the year prizes with a lot of promotional clout.
    (Like XYZZY awards which are nominated and voted by the community instead of entered by the creators)

I’m guessing that no matter which definition we use, there might be some gray areas. To give one example: ParserComp 2015 had a limited creation time, and was described by the organizer as a jam, AND has “Comp” in its name. I’m not sure that more recent ParserComps had a limited creation time, though. So I’m not sure which category ParserComp (as a whole) belongs in.


ParserComp has no time limit for game development. I just may not have been released previously.


Is there any real need for the categories to be separate? Can’ t it just be “Competitions & Jams”?


I think a competition is competitive (hence the name). It has rules, rating by the general public (or judging by a panel), allocation of winners and losers, and potentially prizes.

I think a jam is non-competitive. It may still have rules, but there is no rating/judging, hence no winners and losers and no prizes. Jams tend to be cooperative, rather than competitive and games may be unfinished or unpolished.

I can’t recall any IF competitions that ever called themselves jams, apart from the Text Adventure Literacy Jams, but they were clearly competitions. The fact that competitions may use itch’s jam hosting platform is irrelevant.

As others have said, is there any point trying to make a distinction at all? Just lump them all in together as competitions.and game jams.


Yeah, this seems like the best approach to me - rather than try to impose a taxonomy on unruly reality and hope users figure it out and there aren’t too many edge cases, for most people interested in these kind of events a more useful system would be to provide a comprehensive list, and then document the individual rules and approaches on each event’s respective page.