Last weekend, 35 people were working madly in the UMBC GAIM lab as part of the 3rd annual Global Game Jam. At 5pm on Friday, in the midst of a campus-wide power outage, they watched they keynote video from a laptop held over my head in a dark lab, then learned the theme for this year’s jam: all games had to express somehow the theme “Extinction”. By about 7:00, the power was back on, and they’d formed into five teams, each trying to complete a game by Sunday. One short second power outage later(!), they were on their way.

All five games are online (along with 1475 other games from the 168 other sites world wide). The Global Game Jam is not a competition, but many sites do have some local awards, ours included. We had four awards, Best Game, Best Expression of the Theme, Best Art, and the an award judged by representatives from our site sponsor, NextCentury Corporation.

If you only check out one game from UMBC, make it Fire Forest, winner of the UMBC Best Game, Best Expression of the Theme, and NextCentury awards. In this game, you try to save the last forest from extinction by controlling wind and rain while trying to avoid deadly forest fires. Part of the secret to Fire Forest’s success was that they had a running playable game by Saturday night, leaving all of Sunday to tweak the gameplay and make it fun. Team Members: Jonathan Moriarty, Greg Aring, Mark Jarzynski, Richard Van Tassel, Brendan Masiar, Samuel Farabaugh, Lauren Sparks, Ryan Griffin, Josh Poole, Jonathan Hicks, Dan Dujnic and Eve Addison.

Showing lots of promise, but with only three working levels, the winner of the UMBC Best Art prize was Esca La Volpe. In this game, you are the last celestial fox on earth, trying to make your way back to the moon, drawing powers from different colored objects in the environment. Team Members: Jeremy Townsend, Mark Schraffenberger, Matt (Dark Angel), Taylor Fischer, Eve Addison, Stephen Steinbach, and Zoe Kilbourne.

Also not to be missed, check out Mecannibal, where you play a robot, trying to stave off the hoards of cockroaches. You have a group of mechanical allies to help, but when things get tough, you need to cannibalize them for parts. Team Members: Jonathan Merkle, Arthur Gould, Charles Lohr, Colin Taylor, Lesa Wilcox and Joel Bowers.

The Age Game is a 2D platformer where you start as a baby, advance to middle age, and eventually old age and death. At each stage, your abilities and skills are different as you try to rack up dollars. Team Members: Nathaniel Lam, Kenner Miner, David Kim, Kevin Somers, Mark Van Duyne, Alex Grube and Scott Reid.

Finally, Volcanic Extinction is a 3D game, where you play a volcano trying to wipe out a tribe of wooden tikis with your lava while they try to fill your crater and extinguish you. Team Members: Wallace Brown, Colin Taylor, Elizabeth Baumel, Denise Rockwell and Benjamin Harris.