Last year, I participated in my first game jam and I didn't know what to expect. I soon realized that programmers were the most sought after teammates. I learned what really helps is knowing how to use programs that can get you quickly started on your game. The team I joined in the game jam decided to use GameMaker: Studio, which has a free version. Lots of different types of games can be made using GameMaker as shown by the video:
Furthermore, during a game jam, I found that you need to commit to an idea and just go with it. That's mostly due to the time pressure. So while I wish I could have done more during this game jam besides learning how to make levels in GameMaker, I did walk away with an appreciation for these game-making tools. Even though they may be limited in some aspects, these tools could help a lot in prototyping.
Or even with creating professional-looking games without coding! GameSalad is drag & drop and app developers have had games created using GameSalad in the top 100 of the app store. Lately, I have been looking at Scratch, which is also drag & drop. Here are examples of games created using Scratch:
If you do want to see or play the game our team produced during the game jam, it is a top-down dungeon crawler with musical tones synchronized to the player's movements: Temple of the Gopher God!
Sande Chen is a writer and game designer whose work has spanned 10 years in the industry. Her credits include 1999 IGF winner Terminus, 2007 PC RPG of the Year The Witcher, and Wizard 101. She is one of the founding members of the IGDA Game Design SIG.