On Starting A Coding Competition For Game Developers

Published: May 9th, 2021
Andrzej Mazur
Founder, js13kGames
from Warsaw, Polska
started August 2012
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My name is Andrzej Mazur, I'm a programmer and HTML5 game developer. Besides building games through Enclave Games, an indie studio I founded, I'm also fostering the community through online competitions like js13kGames and Gamedev.js Jam, local Gamedev.js meetups, Gamedev.js Weekly newsletter, and such.

I think the js13kGames competition is my most successful project - it runs yearly since 2012 and gathered a lovely community around itself over the years.


What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?

I started getting freelance jobs as a front-end developer when I was studying, and in the next few years, I decided to do this full time. I worked for a few companies, big and small, building websites.

If you believe in something and focus all your time and efforts on it, be patient. Some things will work sooner, some others might work later on.

I was also passionate about building games, and in my spare time, I was experimenting to see if it's possible to build games using web technologies. This led me to finally deciding to quit my job and focus all the energy on running Enclave Games studio and organizing js13kGames competition.

Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?

I founded Enclave Games in 2012, but it was more of a brand rather than an official company (which launched later in 2017). It was also the year when we finally decided to start the js13kGames competition, which ended up being a great success. Funnily enough, we discussed the competition idea for about a year, but the actual website was designed and coded in 48 hours.

In 2013 the Gamedev.js meetups started, with hackathons and workshops organized later on as well. Another year later, in 2014, the Gamedev.js Weekly newsletter started. When quitting the corporate job I wanted to join the HTML5 game development community, but those were really early days and you couldn't find much - that's why I decided to organize a competition on my own, then meetups, newsletter, and so on.

All those activities got some traction and I decided to spend my time growing them to a point where they are today, doing my own things instead of looking for a regular job or client work, and it's going good so far. I and my wife work full time from home and are enjoying this a lot.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We have a steady income from the licensing fees of Enclave Games creations, sponsorship deals from js13kGames competition, we even got the grant from the Grant for the Web program, so it's going good. We don't spend any funds on advertisement - it's all-natural growth and word of mouth.

It's a family business - we don't need to earn much to cover our costs of living. There is a plan to grow the js13kGames competition, expand the Gamedev.js projects. Local meetups are on hold, but everything else still operates the newsletter, the jam, the survey exploring the current state of the community, we even plan a small conference later this year.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Community is key. I can't imagine the js13kGames competition without the developers enjoying it, sacrificing their free time, sometimes even taking free from work to participate. It's important to value other people's involvement - many aspects of js13kGames were possible because of the help from the community: the whole Server category, the validation bot, the voting app, and much more.

I had to spend my own money on t-shirts we were shipping around the world to participants, but over time the sponsorships covered such costs, and now are paying for the time spent on the competition. If you believe in something and focus all your time and efforts on it, be patient. Some things will work sooner, some others might work later on.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Phaser framework to build games, Sublime Text editor to code, Firefox browser to test. Trello works nice for tracking the tasks, and then Toggle Track for actually keeping the info about the time spent on them, Mailchimp for sending newsletters.

I find the Sublime editor simpler to use than more popular VS Code, and I'm a big fan of Mozilla and their browser instead of Chrome.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I'll skip the resources and mention fellow developers who inspire me (in no particular order): Richard Davey, Christer Kaitila, Andre Garzia, István Szmozsánszky, Maxime Euzière, Rémi Vansteelandt, Emanuele Feronato to name only a few.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

Build a prototype, push it out the door and see what people think about it. Don't try making a perfect product at the very beginning - instead, release the most basic version, and then iterate, add new features, adjust existing ones.

Listen for the feedback from your community, but keep the grand vision you believe in.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can follow me personally on my website and the blog, on Twitter, GitHub, and Instagram. Our Enclave Games can be found on Twitter, js13kGames can be found as well, same goes for Gamedev.js, and the Gamedev.js Weekly newsletter too.