What is the js13kGames Competition?


Js13kGames is a game jam organized by Andrzej Mazur from Enclave Games. Game jams are competitions where developers make games in a limited amount of time and it is, usually, then judged. Game jams come in many shapes and sizes. Some have technological limits and some have specific themes. They can be for individuals or small teams but they usually allow anyone from any background to participate. Game jams are a wonderful way to polish your skills and even get some exposure.

So, what makes Js13kGames different?

js13kGames was first hosted in 2012 that focuses on HTML5 games. The big feature of the competition is the fact that the game package cannot be bigger than 13kb and cannot include external resources. This requires you to think creatively to fit games in the space given. There are multiple categories you can submit your games into as well as a yearly theme, but you don’t have to follow it. These catagories are:

  • Desktop
  • Mobile
  • Server
  • A-Frame

The desktop category is for basic web games that use the keyboard or mouse. The mobile category is for small and large form-factor multi-touch games that run on mobile browsers. The server category lets you develop multiplayer games using node.js for the server-side and requires you to select another category that your game. You can enter your game into multiple categories. A-Frame is a new category that was created in association with A-Frame and Mozilla. A-Frame is a library designed to help developers make WebVR experiences quickly. This category requires you to make a VR game with only 13 kilobytes of space like the other games but the actual A-Frame package doesn’t count towards the package.

Another big difference from other jams is the competition run time. js13kGames gives you one whole month to develop your game, starting on the 13th of August and ending on the 13th of September. This is because the competition is more about technological constraints rather than time constraints. The fun of this competition comes from trying to fit it in the 13 kilobyte package space. Sure, you can just make a simple game and compress the textures and code with simple online tools but it is far more interesting to make your own tools and formats and find clever tricks to fit a better game in a smaller size. There are plenty of great techniques such as creating your own bytecode-based language or a custom image/music format. You can use anything as long as the output is JavaScript or runs within it. This does not include WebAssembly. When I asked them, they said that they would consider changing this if enough people are interested.

The final big difference between this competition and many others is the prizes. Firstly, there are different prizes from various sponsors for different categories as well as the social competition which requires to promote your game on various social media platforms. Secondly, everyone gets a prize for every entry they make and people can submit multiple entries. Just for entering, entrants will recieve a T-shirt as well as some other swag. Along with this, there is usually an object related to the competition. This year, it is Mozilla sponsored A-Frame Google Cardboard VR headsets. In previous years, there were even floppy disks sent out that contained every entry for that year. When asked, Andrzej replied that he wanted to make js13kGames special and it helped promote the competition itself as well as give back to the community. He also said “It’s cool to recieve free swag” and I couldn’t agree more :)

Origin of the competition

Enclave Games is a game studio founded by Andrzej Mazur and Ewa Mazur. They develop HTML5 games as well as HTML5 game development tutorials and the gamedev.js weekly newsletter. They primarly make money through the licensing out of their web games for use on other websites. Even so, js13kGames was originally paid out of Andrzej’s pocket and is now fueled by donations. The competition was created by Andrzej in 2012 because he was unable to find a good game competition for HTML5 game developers to participate in. It appears to be a combination of many popular game jams and the js1k programming competition where one must create a small JavaScript program that does something useful or cool.

Why should you care?

Js13kGames is a great competition that lets you expand your knowledge and gain experience. It is wonderful for people like me that are a bit more on the technological side of things and enjoy programming a lot. Even though I couldn’t include it in my game, I worked on my own low-color image format designed to keep the image small and learned lots. I learned that, even though I absolutely despise HTML, I actually really enjoy developing with JavaScript and the latest web APIs. By giving you one month, it lets you experiment and play around with different concepts, technologies, game designs, and even art styles. The way I see it, it motivates you to keep going with game development and programming in general by giving you these participation prizes as well as providing many opportunities to win another prize. I urge you to go to the website and try it out next year.

The End

Thank you to Andrzej Mazur for helping me write this article and creating the competition itself.

You can donate to him and support the competition here

You can also check out Enclave Games or The Gamedev.js Weekly Newsletter.

If you liked this article, you can donate to me, Davit Markarian.

Written on March 23, 2017