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Jeanette Falk Olesen

Design Processes in Game Jams: Studies of Rapid Design Processes

1. Short overview of my PhD thesis. A game jam can be defined as “an accelerated opportunistic game creation event where a game is created in a relatively short timeframe exploring given design constraint(s) and end results are shared publicly” [5]. Game jam formats are increasingly used beyond traditional game contexts, such as in research, education, and industrial settings [5], and have been adopted as an important rite of passage for aspiring game developers looking to enter the industry [8]. In order to qualitatively reflect on the kinds of experiences participants gain and undergo in game jams, there is a need to develop a greater understanding of the way the design processes are shaped by these game jam formats. Game jams’ quality to drive participants to go through different steps of game development in a short period of time makes game jams an attractive research opportunity to produce knowledge into how games are created [5]. Motivated by this, the planned outcome of my research is to present explorative studies of the inner workings of game jams in order to further develop our understanding of how creative design processes in game creation events unfolds.

2. Nature of the non-written work. The non-written work in my project is documentation of the design process in primarily game jams, but also hackathons. That can for example be: video-recordings, audio-recordings, photographs, screenshots, sketches of prototypes, written notes, time-stamped GitHub commits which includes comments and code. 

 3. Relation of non-written work to PhD thesis. Actively participating in game jams and hackathons while collecting data is important for my research to produce knowledge about the inner workings of accelerated game design processes. This is because I build on the argument put forward by Holtzblatt and Beyer, who argues that reproduction of situations can be unreliable because details of what people do can become habitual and unconscious [3].

 4. Integration of non-written work into PhD thesis. As of now, the collected documentation serves as illustrations of how the design process in game jams unfold and how groups work creatively to meet the challenges the game jam format presents.

 5. Scholarly traditions methodology is based on. The theoretical foundation for my research is based on John Dewey’s pragmatist theory, with arguably Donald Schön being the most recognized advocate for pragmatist principles in design [2, 6]. Pragmatist theory considers theory and practice to be closely intertwined and mutual susceptible. I use pragmatist theory to articulate the dynamic transformation of the design process, decision-making-processes and how the designer acts reflectively in action in game jams. I am studying game jams through a RtD methodology and I research game jam design processes by actively engaging with the practice of game jams, inspired by autoethnographic studies [4], participant observation [1], and performance-based research [7].

6. Difficulties encountered regarding non-written work. It can be difficult to integrate the non-written work in for example articles: How much of the documentation should be showed to the reader? How do I assess the role of the documentation, considering that I both documented the process while also documenting my own work in the process (since I both participate and observe in game jams)?

7. Expectations of workshop. I wish to explore how I can use the documented data from my empirical studies in my thesis, both with regards to my overall argumentation, and with regards to how it can be used to for example illustrate findings. Also, I am looking forward to get inspiration of how others use non-written work in their PhD theses.



1. Jeanette Blomberg, Jean Giacomi, Andrea Mosher, and Pat Swenton-Wall, Ethnographic field methods and their relation to design. Participatory design: Principles and practices, 1993: p. 123-155.
2. Peter Dalsgaard, Pragmatism and design thinking. International Journal of design, 2014. 8(1).
3. Karen Holtzblatt and Hugh Beyer, Contextual Design: Evolved. Synthesis Lectures on Human-Centered Informatics, 2014. 7(4): p. 1-91.
4. Kristina Höök. Transferring qualities from horseback riding to design. in Proceedings of the 6th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction: Extending Boundaries. 2010. ACM.
5. Annakaisa Kultima. Defining Game Jam. in FDG. 2015.
6. Donald A Schön, Designing as reflective conversation with the materials of a design situation. Knowledgebased systems, 1992. 5(1): p. 3-14.
7. Robyn Taylor, Jocelyn Spence, Brendan Walker, Bettina Nissen, and Peter Wright. Performing Research: Four Contributions to HCI. in Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 2017. ACM.
8. Jane Turner, Cameron Owen, and Lubi Thomas. Living the indie life: Mapping creative teams in a 48 hour game jam and playing with data. in IE'13 Proceedings of The 9th Australasian