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The 3 Hour Game Design Contest (3H-GDC)

The 3 Hour Game Design Contest is a programming contest for making simple games in 3 hours. 3 hours may not seem like enough time to make a game, but a lot of interesting ideas can be expressed in that time.

Long Description

It started with a personal challenge: how quickly could one program a Tetris clone from scratch. The founder of the contest, Sean T. McBeth (capn_midnight on, found that he could make a reasonable clone in 2 hours and 37 minutes. What struck him was that most of that time was spent writing the basic game loop, timing, and IO code that is identical for the vast majority of games. Assuming one were to start with such basic "boilerplate" code, something much more advanced than just Tetris should be possible.

The membership at has a long tradition of what are called "mini-contests". The site runs contests that have corporate sponsors for prizes, and the membership of the site run mini-contests where prizes are donated by the community as a whole. These mini-contests came about through a desire to have more competitive programming opportunities than just one site could handle. The emphasis is on fun, comradely, and competition.

The first of these mini-contests was Michalson's ASCII Fishtank Contest. Contestants had a month to program a fish tank simulation that used nothing but text-mode console "graphics" to display it. The ridiculously restrictive nature of the requirements were the entire point; without it, there would be no bragging rights for such a challenge.

Several years after the ASCII Fishtank mini-contest was held, a few site members began talking about starting a new series of contests. The 3H-GDC was one of the results of that discussion. So far, there have been 7 runs of the contest in the last 5 years.
  1. The First 3H-GDC: theme "Black & White"
  2. 3H-GDC mII: theme "Fire"
  3. 3H-GDC mIII: theme "Crackers"
  4. 3H-GDC mIV: theme "Carts"
  5. 3H-GDC mV: theme "The Stars"
  6. 3H-GDC mVI: theme "The Pits"
  7. 3H-GDC mVII: theme "Spring"


  • Submissions must meet a predetermined theme (which will be revealed 15 minutes before the beginning of the contest)
  • Any Language (C, Java, C#, Python, javascript, Brainf*, I don't care) or API (SDL, Allegro, PyGame, JOGL, even SVG in HTML5 is cool) are acceptable, as long as you handle all distribution yourself (Ideally include all assemblies. You may link to download page, but please, don't just link to the project's homepage). This is especially true if you use a "game maker", I don't want to have to hunt anything down to play your game.
  • Writing the code in the time limit is "on your honor". That's why I keep the theme a secret: you might be able to make a generic game between now and then, but you won't be able to make anything specific to the theme. But seriously, why would you cheat for such a simple contest?
  • Judges will judge on a full binary version of the software. They will not compile the software. Source code is not required, though you may request source code to be posted with your submission.
  • Judging is conducted by a panel of non-competitors.
  • Judging is at the discretion of the individual judges. The judges will rank each contestant based on their subjective ranking order, and an Instant-Runoff Vote is used to select the winner from there. Typically, judging is based mostly on overall gameplay and originallity of game design. We understand that content will be light, that graphics will be underdeveloped, that input MIGHT be a bit akward. Gameplay and concepts are key.
  • Prizes (when available) are donated by anyone who feels like it.

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