Global Game Jam 2012 took place this last weekend, and the three of us participated! In the span of about 48 hours, we built a game themed around Ouroboros essentially from scratch (we did have to search online for music and sound effects, but other than that we created all the code and assets in the two days). Here are a few thoughts:
1. Keynote speaker Gonzalo Frasca was absolutely right. The important thing isn't how well you end up doing, it's about leveling up while doing it. And I can say for sure that this helped me level up. Before, I've worked on a video game over the course of a semester, and then over the course of a month, but a weekend is a whole other beast. You just need to really buckle down and work, and if there's something you don't know you are going to learn it VERY quickly.
2. Possibly the most important thing to know as a developer is your own limits. No matter how good you are at coding, 48 hours isn't a very long time, and plans for a game will ALWAYS be too ambitious. You have to know what ideas to cut, what to keep, and what to change. And you have accept that the finished product will pretty much never be quite what you imagined. But it will still be awesome.
3. And probably the most important thing for you to do during a game jam is of course to have fun. Hopefully, you're doing the game jam because you want to, so don't get too stressed out by the impending deadline. There will be times where things aren't moving as smoothly as planned, but that's inevitable. Go with the flow, don't stress out, and in the process learn how to deal with unexpected events!
That's really all I have to say about it. In short, participating in the game jam was absolutely amazing, and I highly recommend participating to any prospective game devs out there. It's an eye-opening experience, and even if you don't manage to get very much done, remember: it's not about what you end up with, it's about leveling up and becoming better than what you were before. Just do your best and have fun, it'll be worth it.