Introducing Dulwich Game Jam

Jared Rigby

Jared Rigby, the Dulwich Game Jam Project Leader and Learning Technology Coach at Dulwich College Beijing, shares his vision for providing students with an immersive learning experience in game development. Through game jams, students design and build video games within a limited timeframe, driving their own learning outcomes. Join Jared as he explores the exciting world of game development and its potential to empower students.


As a computer science educator, Jared regularly gets to interact with students from primary school all the way through to the end of high school. He finds there is a constant thread that exists, irrespective of age. When students are asked, "Why do you want to study computer science?", one of the most common responses is "Because I want to make my own video games". This intrinsic motivator allows students to directly map concepts they've learnt within the computer science classroom to massively popular real-world products they’ve interacted with throughout their life.

Making a video game, though, is a complex undertaking. Building something of value requires multiple hours of debugging, testing, and user feedback. When taught as a standard unit of enquiry within the classroom, it can sometimes lead to a frustrating experience. A student’s game-making journey can be a slow, disjointed process, only allowing for minimal progress week by week and often finds students building a similar, if not the same, game as their classmates. The desire to offer students an uninterrupted, hands-on experience in game development where they can drive their own learning outcomes arose.

gamejam-collage Take a look at this year's entries and try out some of the games!

What is a game jam?

A game jam is a hackathon for making games. Participants are challenged to design and build a video game in a limited timeframe. The time available is set by the competition organisers and will differ between contests. Most standard jams range from one weekend – as with staple game jams like Ludum Dare and the Global Game Jam – to one month – like GitHub’s annual Game Off or the challenging js13kGames competition. Here at Dulwich, we opted for a weekend. This would allow students to use up to three days of uninterrupted time from Friday morning through to a submission deadline of early Sunday afternoon.

A key feature of a game jam is the theme; a vital piece of information that’s kept secret from the students until the very start of the hackathon. Students are expected to incorporate the theme within their game and use it to help focus their initial brainstorming. A good theme should be open to interpretation and allow students to create a wide variety of experiences. The theme can also be leveraged to encourage students to consider wider-reaching issues across societies and how they can use games to inform their audience.

Dulwich Game Jam 2023

For our group of schools, we’ve made the decision to have the theme relate to one of the UN’s Social Development Goals (SDGs) each year. For this year, we decided to start with a theme of “Be less wasteful”, which directly ties in with SDG 12: “Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”. Using this theme as a guide, our students created games ranging from ocean clean-up collection games to forest preservation platformers, to the more out-of-left-field ideas like games focused on a sentient trash can or leading a bureaucratic visit to a factory to ensure safe and healthy work environments.

Interdisciplinary opportunities

Another added benefit of game-making is the opportunity for interdisciplinary learning and collaboration. Game jams are not only an opportunity for your tech-savvy students to dive head-first into programming challenges, but they also present the chance to build cross-curricular links and demonstrate a wider variety of skills. A successful game jam team will require programmers, artists, musicians, narrative designers, and marketers. 

Working with partners

In the run-up to the game jam weekend we were able to collaborate with a wide range of partners from industry and academia. We heard about what it’s like to work on AAA titles from Colin Walder of CD Projekt Red, the realities of being an indie developer from Pill Bug Interactive’s Sean Walton, the latest game research from Alena Denisova at the University of York before finally virtually welcoming staff from Ubisoft China who provided our students with an online workshop about how to be successful in a game jam. 

gamejam-experts Meet The Experts

After completing their games, students submitted their work to our guest experts for judging and feedback. Over 100 students participated in the event and it is with great pleasure that we announce the success of our winning teams in the Juniors category (Y5 and Y6) ,Middle School category (Y7, Y8 and Y9)  as well as the Senior School category (Y10, Y11, Y12 and Y13). Members of the winning team have been invited to Shanghai for an in-person game making workshop and careers day with the team from Ubisoft China. Congratulations to the winning students!

game-jam Dulwich Game Jam 2023 Participants at Ubisoft

Having just completed this process for the first time here at Dulwich, we’re already looking to make this an annual event that we can improve year upon year. When collecting feedback from our students on what they enjoyed about the game jam, common themes included how the event was fast-paced and required them to learn how to collaborate effectively. They also enjoyed the chance to work on a project with their friends over a weekend. An area for improvement that students identified is that they want even more time to work on their games in the future! Here’s hoping we can find more time in next year’s calendar to keep the excitement for game-making high!

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