What motivates you to join a competition or jam?

Right now I’m trying to decide if I should join IFComp this year and I realized that so far I’ve mostly joined based off a gut feeling with some additional factors:

  • Time. Do I have the bandwidth to commit to finishing by a deadline?
  • Energy. Can I put in the effort for a high-investment project? Or will this event let me submit something shorter?
  • Relevance. Why should I join this particular event? Is it something that’s well-known? Is there someone organizing that I’m familiar with? Does it match the theme of a piece I’ve been considering/making?

Would love to hear if anyone else considers the same and/or other factors. There’s so many jams and comps out there that sometimes it’s hard to figure out which ones I want to join.


I feel that I have a much better chance of finding an audience if I enter a competition.

I seem to have long development times, so I am really only interested in larger events as an author. I don’t think I could finish a game in six months. At least, not the way I want to do things at the moment. As a player, I enjoy a lot of stuff going on. I’m only talking about writing stuff.

I chose Spring Thing for my game because it was rather experimental and ST has a reputation for welcoming games like that. Players could also conceivably spend more than two hours on it, so I didn’t want an event that had a play time limit. Really, I would think about the vibes of various events and see if something feels right for your game.


Most of the games I’ve created have been for game jams, in very short (for IF development) timeframes. A list of some considerations I’d keep in mind before joining one would be:

1. Time.

Does it feel like a reasonable time frame, and in that allotted span, is this the event that is the most interesting to me? I tend to operate best under either very short timeframes where I can take advantage of an intense creative session, like the 4 hour category for Ectocomp, or else somewhere along the duration of a month or so to allow for working in a time buffer and not stressing myself out too badly. Jams on the span of weeks tend to feel a bit thin, but are a fun challenge for shorter pieces.

I tend to expect from myself about a week overall of actual development time, but it’s cut up something along the lines of: coding (UI mostly) 2 days, graphic design (cover art, page info/layout) 1 day, writing (and importing into Twine) anywhere from 1-7 days. This varies with responsibilities, but given the type of games that I make- (low on choice variation, often low on word count in the sense that poetry tends to run more concise) it’s fairly consistent. For larger projects, (Sweetpea was about 12,000 words), then a month or more is reasonable.

2. Jam information.

I mostly join unranked, fairly free form jams- often with a suggested theme, or mechanic, but is more ‘this is meant to inspire riffing off of’ versus ‘it has to hit marks A, B, and C, or else it’s not acceptable.’ I like having the room to play, and for ideas to evolve- though it is a lot of fun to incorporate optional bonus elements. It’s really fun to feel like you’re part of the club when everyone is taking a stab in the dark of their own interpretation of a theme.

I’d also consider whether the audience of the jam is a good fit. For example, if it’s a jam meant for primary walking sims or visual novels, clearly my stuff isn’t a good fit. I don’t normally seek out ranking based jams, and instead prefer the ribbons approach that SpringThing has. More exhibition, less competition. I’m here to show off and enjoy everyone else’s awesome works, not pit ourselves against each other like ravenous wolves.

Special consideration of elements like SpringThing’s commitment to diversity are also pertinent to me- I like joining jams and submitting things to them as a show of support, (for example, charity jams, where I hammered out three smaller works for the Neo Twiny jam to support the donation to Equality Florida from Manon and matching donors.) Jams with a strong supporting community are also lovely, like the Bitsy ones, and I like to chip in with comments on other people’s works (or at least ratings) as well, to play into the communal spirit.

3. Personal Interest.

Is this a gamejam that I’ve read a lot of reviews for games stemming from it, and therefore my interest is piqued? Perhaps it deals with a theme that just sets off a bunch of buzzing inspiration, or it handles a favourite genre of mine, and I’ve love to both write and read more works in it, and possibly connect with others also interested in the same subject manner.

Is it ran by someone that I like, and would like to help encourage- because having more submissions is always super fun to see come together for something you organized? Do I want to see this competition run again in the future, like SeedComp, and therefore a show of public interest would help tip the scales in favour of it continuing?

I think that covers most of my bases? I just like to be silly and have fun, plus it’s a good prompt to make things on a continual basis. I have a much higher success rate for frequent, smaller projects, than behemoth singular releases.


This is just a side note but most good IFComp games take a long time to plan and polish with parser games frequently taking a year to plan and complete and choice games taking months. It’s unclear if you’ve started a game or not, but if you haven’t started a game yet, I’d strongly advise against entering. It is possible for a game made in a short time frame to win (look at All Roads by Jon Ingold which was mostly programmed in a day then polished for months), but a good rule of thumb would be to only enter if one of the following is true:

  1. You’ve spent so long on your game that it is smooth and has a lot of interesting content (like most recent winners, or
  2. people who’ve tested or tried your game respond really positively to it (like a super short game that is deeply sweet such as Out), or
  3. you don’t feel bad if people criticize your game (which is likely to happen if neither of the first two are true).

So I guess that’s a fourth factor you should consider: how mean is this competition? I’d rank IFComp as the competition that gets the meanest reviews, with everything else a far distant second and introcomp the nicest. For competitions with kind vibes, there are Ectocomp, Spring Thing, The Text Adventure Literacy Jams, Punycomp, and Parsercomp, among others.


I have a lot of unfinished games, but all my published games have been entered in a game jam or competition.

I will enter a jam/comp if the theme appeals to me and I have an idea for a game that fits the theme or I can morph an existing unfinished game to the theme. If the competition has a set theme, then that means you have to write something within a short time frame, so you have to be really disciplined to commit to that time frame. This can be hard, but it’s also a good thing, as it forces you to focus.

I like to play short to medium length games, hence I tend to write short to medium length games. This fits well with most competitions.

I also like to support the jams/comps that I believe in. Hence my early Adventuron games were to learn and support Adventuron and my later Inform 6 games were to support ParserComp, PunyJam and Text Adventure Literacy jam. And SeedComp was just a damned good idea.

I have never entered the big three (IF Comp, Spring Thing and ECTOCOMP), so that’s something I need to address. I did write a game for IF Comp a few years ago, but withdrew at the last minute, despite really good feedback from testers. The big three don’t have a theme, so you can spend as long as you want.

One thing to keep in mind is that IF Comp includes the best of the best, so you need to have a really, really good game to compete with these or be happy just for the experience. IF Comp certainly gives you the best exposure.


Same! What pushed me into trying my hand at comps and jams was the idea that I’m likelier to at least get some players by submitting to an event rather than just publishing on my own.

Oh interesting, I never ST welcomed more experimental pieces. I’ll have to check this out some more, thank you for the tidbit. And yes, I agree; it’s been fun submitting to different events and seeing what kind of pieces pop up there. I’ll have to look deeper into the kinds of entries each event attracts.


Thank you for giving insight into your dev timeline. I can’t say much bc of the rules, but for IntroComp this year I wondered what other folks’ timelines looked like. And thinking about the kinds of time constraints we operate best under is a great point and one I haven’t consciously considered much yet.

Entering events to support organizers and interact with the community are also approaches I haven’t thought about yet; I’ll have to see if I find any communities I enjoy supporting like this!


Ah, thank you for letting me know about IFComp’s standards! I had a feeling the caliber for entries was pretty high when I read a description of it as the Superbowl of IF.

I didn’t know that different comps have varying levels of meanness for their reviews, the list you gave here will be good to keep in mind for me.

And for what it’s worth, I decided to compromise and participate as a judge this year. I’m still getting my feet wet with authoring and I think this’ll help me get a sense of what I’ll be getting into should I enter in the future.


Luckily for me I enjoy writing games within a short time frame (to some degree), and being forced to focus is the main benefit I get from these event formats. I’m the type to wander and think of all kinds of things to include in my games, which get problematic when the deadline looms in the horizon.

Interesting, I didn’t know these were considered the big three. I knew of IF Comp for awhile now but I only learned about Spring Thing and ECTOCOMP this year.

This is a good point; I shook in my boots (in “hey I recognize them!” kind of way) when I saw some of the names in last year’s IF entries, and I even played one of them at some point, so I think I’ll bide my time and enter in the future for this one.


First, reading a few posts down, we’d be glad to have you on board as an IFComp judge … I think we’re always looking for more reviewers, too, and don’t worry if you’re not experienced enough, or whatever! You don’t have to do anything too fancy or worry you have profound insights.

For me with IFComp it was originally just to say “I did something new this year. All that scratch work gets to be shown off.” It still is.

As for other events/jams? If I have a solid enough idea, I enter the jam. It generally has to fit me and my needs, and then I try to fit its. I generally don’t like jams that say “include element X.”

I’m glad for the short-game jams that have popped up recently, because I often have just that one puzzle or narrative bit I don’t want to wait to dump into something longer. I’ve realized I can have something to say and expound slightly.

Looking at my IFComp submissions, only one took under a month to write from scratch. (Others, I put to the side saying "oh man no way I can write this, but that’s my own procrastination.) That’d be The Cube and the Cavern, which was relatively sparse despite having 54 (!) rooms. My initial planned game fell through. CatC had a relatively kind trial-and-error puzzle and a lot of silly narrative that didn’t need tons of refurbishing. But it also dealt with an idea I had, which was a weirdly shaped world.

Most of the stuff I started on for IFComp had ideas I’d been kicking around for a while. That said, a deadline is a heckuva motivator. In 2015 for The Problems Compound I had very little done by September 1st except a bunch of notes (IIRC) and then I pulled together enough to make something that didn’t fit in the z-machine.

So if you have a strong idea, and you’re willing to accept it might not come together in time, it might be worth taking a shot! And if that shot falls short, there’s always Spring Thing.


With about one month left on the IFComp deadline, know that this is a hella short time. I started on my entry of last year in July… and did not manage to make it polished enough on time (turns out I submitted with super big bugs - the reviews were harsh but fair as well). It’s still possible to make it, however. Last year, there were a bunch of Texture games that were created through a three(?)-week workshop. But those were fairly short (30min max).

So at this point of time, if you are submitting something, especially if you haven’t started yet, I would highly recommend something small (and be prepared for those reviews). Or put it off until the EctoComp, or the SpringThing, or the other jams Mathbrush mentionned. You can find two lists on the IFWiki (not all of them are a yearly occurence tho):

But honestly to the points above, I’ve been entering jams and comps on a whim with little to no prepwork ahead of time (usually starting during the last week of a jam, month for a competition - speedruning through them). It worked in my favour sometimes, but also blew up in my face in most ranked ones (the experience was worth it).

If you feel inspired by a comp/jam, whether it is ranked or not, I say go for it! You learn a ton while doing them, whether it is time management, game design, when the cut your losses or push stuff for later… And it can be loads of fun (if you don’t take reviews/comments personally).
Between my first entry to a jam in 2021 (not the V2) until now, it’s really night and day!


I would advocate making a minimally-viable game first, then picking a competition and spend the time between entry and submission polishing the game. The obvious exception is when you are joining a game jam (where the point is to take a set length of time and to not start until a specific time) - for those, I’d pick a time when you have a relatively decent amount of free time and an occasion where the jam, its theme and requirements excite you…


Thank you! I’m excited to try my hand at more structured reviews. I also really like how IFComp makes being a judge accessible to anyone yet also a somewhat formal thing. It makes me feel I could be a part of the jam too aside from entering and not just someone who happened to review a game or two on it.

The shorter jams are a blessing; sometimes I just don’t have the ability to slog through a long-term project, especially when the heat gets ridiculous.

Deadlines are also great motivators for me too! The only downside is that I usually come up with my ideas during the events and not before, which makes things a little dangerous for submitting on time. So as far as I’m concerned you were doing pretty well for yourself with The Problems Compound!

And thanks for pointing out that Spring Thing comes after IFComp!


Thank you for sharing your timeline for last year! A good reminder that bugs are always lurking around the corner… And Texture looks interesting, I’ll have to look into this one.

Ah, thank you for the lists! I’ve been doing a similar approach to yours where I enter without much prep work (usually doing it right when I start), so I’m glad I’m not the only one.

Great point! Lots of things to learn (sometimes at a price) but it’s all about having fun in the end. And I’ll check out your v1 sometime!


Thanks for the advice! I want to try out getting into the habit of making MVP’s first before entering and see how that approach works for me.


For a more extensive timeline of my IFcomp entry of last year (and more comments on my experience), you might want to check its post-mortem. It does in a lot more details of what’s been done, and especially what didn’t work…

Indeed it is (and I’m organising jam for that purpose with other peeps from the Forum)! But some comps (and some jams) have a bit more of a serious air/affair to them. Knowing which one is in advance can help set expectations :stuck_out_tongue:


As someone familiar with game jams of the itch.io variety but not so much with IF jams/competitions, I hope I can contribute something unique to this interesting discussion:

Before I submitted to the Neo-Twiny Jam, I participated in two more general jams. I wanted to focus more on writing a pure text-only game as I’ve always played visual novels and would like to do something different. This restriction was not appreciated by many who said my games would be better if they included audiovisual elements…

Even visual novels tend to get rated poorly or ignored in these jams. For better or for worse, these games we’re making are niche and we’re looking for audiences that would be most receptive to our games. This is why, even though visual novels are common on itchio and elsewhere, people prefer submitting them to VN jams.

Similarly, when I finally participated in Neo-Twiny Jam, I felt my game/aesthetic decision was finally accepted by the community. I think finding a community is more important than making the perfect game in the perfect game jam. Game jams, to me, are more about creating community bonds and participating in spaces. They work really well as excuses for people to entrench further into communities.

My motivation is therefore rather simple: I decided to join the several short game jams by the Neo-Interactives in order to learn and play more from the IF community here and beyond. Getting to meet different people from all walks of life is always interesting and I get to make a game as a bonus. Game jams are pretty neat in that way.


Huh, I never thought about finding community this way! Thank you for sharing your experience, it’s cool you managed to find a community that appreciates your style.