Auckland Anniversary Weekend was marked by some seriously big winds outside, but inside the Media Design School in Auckland and the University of Waikato in Hamilton 70 gamers were in the eye of the storm.

They were there to make games – fast. It was part of the Global Game Jam, a worldwide event wherein developers, artists and musicians get together to make games in less than 48 hours (sleeping and eating are optional).

Most videogames are created by teams of developers over several years on budgets in the millions. We had teams of 4-6 and just one weekend: It’s what’s euphemistically referred to in the games industry as “crunch time.” By the end of the weekend over 7,000 people around the world had participated in the Global Game Jam and churned out over 1,400 games. It all kicked off here in New Zealand on Friday.

In Auckland there was a good mix of professional game developers, experienced indie developers and students from the Media Design School's Graduate Diploma of Game Development. Teams playtested one another’s games, and even shared artists and musicians around.

The ridiculous timeframe, limited resources and random teams made for some creative results and approaches. Power outages, creative differences, “inverted normal maps” and lack of sleep were taken in stride.

Each year participants are given a theme. This year’s theme was “extinction.” Thankfully, no one here made a game featuring dinosaurs, dodos or alien invasions.

Instead we got retro pixel cancer, Noah’s Ark meets Chuck Norris, thought police, planetary impacts, forestry, a computer-aided drinking game and a board game called Just Ladders (‘cos all the snakes are extinct, you see).

Teams could also go for optional Achievements. Dead Pixels (the Audience Choice award winner in Auckland) went for the ‘Old School’ achievement, with a resolution of only 160x144 pixels and four shades of green (the same limitations as the original Nintendo Game Boy).

An extremely hard and unfair platformer (just like they used to make in the ‘80s), it was made tougher still by the fact that the pixels that make up the game are becoming extinct.

Should you stay still to figure out what to do you’ll discover your pixels only die faster. It’s the kind of masochistic mindset that titilates programmers. To further boost its retro credentials, all the music and sound was produced on an actual Commodore 64.

Meanwhile in Noah More Heroes, you play a futuristic Noah, collecting wood for your Ark and picking up two of each animal before the water rises (eating any extra animals is also an option). Once the world has flooded, you’ll need to fight off pirates using Michael Jackson’s glove until the water level falls and it starts all over again. If that sounds a bit crazy, wait until you hear the sound effects or see Noah eat a cow. Despite having to banish this team to another room because they were having too much fun playing it, it’s quite consistent in its style. You can also play it two-player with Xbox controllers.

Down the road in Hamilton at the University of Waikato’s Computer Science department, the audience favourite was Extinction of Thought. You play as the totalitarian "thought police" and must control a population so they remain grey, dull and the same as each other. Instead of Tower Defence, it’s Tower Oppression.

48 hours doesn’t leave much time to polish and playtest a game. Some teams had playable but ugly games by Saturday lunchtime. Others had beautiful images that didn’t do much until Sunday.

Planet Buster is one that falls into the beautiful category: You zoom through a model of the solar system before using the gravitational pull of your moonbase to draw asteroids away from the Earth. It’s written using the WebGL graphics library which only the latest browsers can run, so both the tech and gameplay were a bit experimental. Similarly, the Globus project from Waikato University is a beautiful and interesting model of the planet, even if it’s more a toy than a game.

But the whole point of the Global Game Jam is to experiment, take risks, collaborate and have fun doing it.

You can play these and other Game Jam entries at Playmaker. Keep in mind that these were made fast and may be experimental or unpolished. Be sure to go over the Readme.TXT before you play.

Thanks heaps to the Media Design School, the University of Waikato, The Auckland Game Developers Meetup, Playmaker and the IGDA for making this awesome event possible.

Stephen Knightly is on the board of Playmaker, the independent game developers association of New Zealand. He runs the games consultancy InGame and hosts the monthly Auckland Game Developers Meetup.