Abstract Details

Why Won’t They Jam? The Reasons For General Upper Secondary School Students For Not Attending A Game Jam.

Main issue or problem addressed

Game jams are accelerated game creation events where a game is created in a limited time frame, usually working in groups, and the results are shared. Game jam events, which were first used in game development education and game industry, have become a rising trend in the past few years, and they are attracting more attention from researchers as well. Existing research shows that game jamming has several beneficial effects that are relevant in learning and education (e.g. Meriläinen et al 2019), but despite of that, game jams have not been widely used in general formal education. Furthermore, adolescent game jammers have not been in the focus of game jam research.

This article is part of a larger research initiative conducting whether game jamming could be introduced in formal education as a new method for learning. We are focusing on the general upper secondary school students, who in Finland are mostly between 16 and 19 years old. In this article, we specifically aim at identifying the possible reasons why a student in general upper secondary education would not attend a game jam event, and discussing what could be done in order to lower their barriers to entry.

Key research questions

  1. What are the reasons (of general upper secondary school students) for not attending a game jam?
  2. Are there different groups of students, with different reasons for not attending a game jam?
  3. Do adolescents have different reasons for not attending than adults?
  4. Do formal education and school system have specific characteristics that might make it more difficult to adopt game jamming as a method of learning?


Objectives of the study

Our goal in this study is twofold: firstly, we want to see if adolescents and adults have similar reasons for not attending a game jam, and second, we hope to recognise things in the school system that might pose difficulties when introducing a new method for learning.

Both objectives connect to our research projects main focus: game jamming in formal education. We aim to discern whether game jamming could be used as a method of learning and teaching in schools, and if its beneficial learning outcomes, especially in the so called 21st century skills (e.g. collaboration and communication) would be transferable to formal education.

Approach envisaged to answer these questions

In November 2018, we arranged an experimental game jam event for Finnish general upper secondary school students. Despite marketing the jam event for 800+ students in three different schools, we only got eight participants. The students got one study credit from attending the jam; the requirement for finishing the school is 75 credits. After the jam event, we sent a survey to the students that could have participated but did not, trying to decipher the reasons why the jam event was not more popular.

We have survey results from 218 students who did not attend the jam event. By analyzing their answers, we are going to discern different groups of people who might have different reasons for not attending a game jam. We are going to compare the results with former research (e.g. Meriläinen 2018) on adult first-time game jam attendees and their barriers to entry.

The preliminary results from the survey show that the main reason for not attending is the lack of information: 46.33% of the students reported they did not even remember receiving the invitation to the game jam event. We still need to interview the principals of the attending schools in order to shed more light on the process of inviting students, as the invitations were sent from the researchers to the principals who then forwarded them to teachers and students of their perspective schools. It is clear, however, that the marketing issue needs to be addressed if the game jams should be further used in education.

Second main reason for not attending a game jam is the lack of interest in games in general (36.2%) and in game making (39.4%). This aspect is strongly gendered, with girls reporting less interest in games and game making than boys. As the skills game jams further the most are more general and not specific to game making culture or game industry, we propose even the students not interested in games in general could benefit from attending game jams.

Third main reason (27%) for not attending a game jam seems to relate to scheduling of the jam event and the time restrictions; the students of general upper secondary schools just do not have extra time on their hands. To spend a whole weekend intensively working to design and create a game is a big sacrifice in the busy life of a student. The school system at the moment has very strict time limitations. The school year in a general upper secondary school in Finland is divided into five periods, each lasting approximately from six to seven weeks. A student usually studies from five to eight different subjects in each period, and normally has from four to six 60-75 minutes long lessons during a school day. The system does not offer time to concentrate on any given subject for a whole day, let alone 24 or 48 hours as is usual in a game jam event.

We still need to look at the survey results more thoroughly to find other significant data. In addition to that, we need to compare these results against the research that focuses on adult game jammers. Our preliminary hypothesis is that the practical reasons for not attending a game jam event (lack of information and time) are more dominant amongst the adolescents than adults.

The article also discusses if and how we should take into consideration various groups of students that can be discerned from the survey: students who are not at all interested in games (36.2%) or game making (39.4%); students who claimed to be interested in game jamming but still did not attend (7.34% of students); and gendered focus groups. There is still work to be done studying the survey results concerning these groups.

In addition to the survey that was sent to the non-attendees, we have a smaller sample of the students who did attend the game jam. They answered two surveys: one before the jam and one after the jam. Especially in the first survey some of the jam participants expressed anxiety about their own skills. All jam participants were interested in games and identified as gamers. We are still discussing amongst ourselves if we should interview the game jam attendees to find out more about the possible reasons for not attending a game jam, both internal reasons and practical reasons, e.g. the limitations of the day to day practices of the school system. If this abstract should get approved, we would be most grateful for comments on this.


  • Fowler, A., Pirker, J., Pollock, I., Paula, B. C., Echeveste, M. E. & Gómez, M. J. (2016). Understanding the benefits of game jams. Exploring the potential for engaging young learners in STEM. In Proceedings of the 2016 ITiCSE Working Group Reports, 119-135.
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  • Meriläinen, M. & Aurava, R. (2018). Internal Barriers to Entry for First-Time Participants in the Global Game Jam. In Proceedings of the 12th European Conference on Games Based Learning, 414-421.
  • Meriläinen, M., Aurava, R., Kultima, A. & Stenros, J. (2019). Game Jams for Learning and Teaching. A Review. In review.
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