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Students and staff challenged to adapt at Aotearoa’s homegrown gaming hackathon

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11 August 2021

116 new and veteran game jammers came together at Unleash Space, the University of Auckland’s innovation hub and maker space run by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), to participate in Kiwijam, Aotearoa’s own homegrown annual in-person game-jam.

Teams had 48 hours to share ideas, experiment, and create a game of any type that spoke to this year’s theme: Adapt. Participants in the nation-wide hackathon included a mix of high school students, university students, university staff, and game development professionals. 

Kiwijam is designed to give people from all backgrounds the opportunity to explore the world of game development and foster the potential of New Zealand’s gaming industry through hands-on learning, experimentation and networking. Keynote speaker David Delgado of MYTONA, one of the largest gamedev companies in the world, kicked off the hackathon with a crash course on how to get the most out of the design process and iterative development.

Over the course of the weekend, Auckland-based teams created functional prototypes of 25 games including Chroma Chameleon (solve puzzles by using your tongue and tail to morph and blend colours), Habidapt (a habitat themed board game where players adapt, attack, and transform to collect as many tokens as possible), and QAPL (play four mini-games simultaneously, and get an electric shock if you die!)

Since 2019, Kiwijam has been co-organised by University of Auckland Science student Zac Miller-Waugh and CTO of Māori digital tech firm Ara Journeys, Ben Kenobi. Zac says, “When I found out about Kiwijam, I fell in love with the values and culture it stands for. Kiwijam is meant for anyone with an interest in making games, even if you’ve never made a game before. We hope that Kiwijam is a way for new game devs or people who are interested in starting their gamedev journey to get inspired and feel like they are a part of a bigger community.”

“Kiwijam has always set itself apart from other game jams in a few ways,” says Ben. “One is that it hopes to invite newcomers into the community by encouraging creative freedom and asking veteran jammers to take newbies under their wing. Hackathons are a great way to tease out new ideas, learn new skills, meet people and maybe even create something that has a life beyond the jam. 

“For Kiwijam though, it’s really important that there are no expectations, rules or incentives that might detract from being creative and adventurous. The focus is always on a safe environment where people feel free to take risks and go a little crazy with their designs. We hope that what people, especially newcomers, come away with is a new perspective on their craft and games as a form.”

University of Auckland Computer Science alumnus Russell Bloxwich enjoyed being able to grow as a developer and the satisfaction of seeing an idea come to life. He says, “Kiwijam was a really great opportunity to use and develop skills I otherwise don’t get to. It’s energizing to see so many different projects iterate through their lifecycle over the weekend, and often result in brilliant experiences. I am searching for other similar events and look forward to attending next year.”

During the hackathon, participants had access to the free resources and equipment available in the Unleash Space maker space, allowing them a unique opportunity to integrate physical components into their digital games. “I like that Kiwijam Auckland is the kind of jam where you see someone on a sewing machine making a wearable controller for their game. Another team laser cut wooden pieces for their board game. Epic!” says Ben. 

“There’s a hum, an energy about Kiwijam that is simultaneously wholesome and electric. I love seeing the creativity and sheer awesomeness that come out of just one weekend – from a father-daughter team making a game set in Narnia to a DJ mixing desk being used as a controller. There have been some stellar Auckland Kiwijams, but this was the best one yet.”

View games developed at Kiwijam 2021

University of Auckland wins international award for entrepreneurship education
University of Auckland wins international award for entrepreneurship education

social media

11 August 2021

116 new and veteran game jammers came together at Unleash Space, the University of Auckland’s innovation hub and maker space run by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), to participate in Kiwijam, Aotearoa’s own homegrown annual in-person game-jam.

Teams had 48 hours to share ideas, experiment, and create a game of any type that spoke to this year’s theme: Adapt. Participants in the nation-wide hackathon included a mix of high school students, university students, university staff, and game development professionals. 

Kiwijam is designed to give people from all backgrounds the opportunity to explore the world of game development and foster the potential of New Zealand’s gaming industry through hands-on learning, experimentation and networking. Keynote speaker David Delgado of MYTONA, one of the largest gamedev companies in the world, kicked off the hackathon with a crash course on how to get the most out of the design process and iterative development.

Over the course of the weekend, Auckland-based teams created functional prototypes of 25 games including Chroma Chameleon (solve puzzles by using your tongue and tail to morph and blend colours), Habidapt (a habitat themed board game where players adapt, attack, and transform to collect as many tokens as possible), and QAPL (play four mini-games simultaneously, and get an electric shock if you die!)

Since 2019, Kiwijam has been co-organised by University of Auckland Science student Zac Miller-Waugh and CTO of Māori digital tech firm Ara Journeys, Ben Kenobi. Zac says, “When I found out about Kiwijam, I fell in love with the values and culture it stands for. Kiwijam is meant for anyone with an interest in making games, even if you’ve never made a game before. We hope that Kiwijam is a way for new game devs or people who are interested in starting their gamedev journey to get inspired and feel like they are a part of a bigger community.”

“Kiwijam has always set itself apart from other game jams in a few ways,” says Ben. “One is that it hopes to invite newcomers into the community by encouraging creative freedom and asking veteran jammers to take newbies under their wing. Hackathons are a great way to tease out new ideas, learn new skills, meet people and maybe even create something that has a life beyond the jam. 

“For Kiwijam though, it’s really important that there are no expectations, rules or incentives that might detract from being creative and adventurous. The focus is always on a safe environment where people feel free to take risks and go a little crazy with their designs. We hope that what people, especially newcomers, come away with is a new perspective on their craft and games as a form.”

University of Auckland Computer Science alumnus Russell Bloxwich enjoyed being able to grow as a developer and the satisfaction of seeing an idea come to life. He says, “Kiwijam was a really great opportunity to use and develop skills I otherwise don’t get to. It’s energizing to see so many different projects iterate through their lifecycle over the weekend, and often result in brilliant experiences. I am searching for other similar events and look forward to attending next year.”

During the hackathon, participants had access to the free resources and equipment available in the Unleash Space maker space, allowing them a unique opportunity to integrate physical components into their digital games. “I like that Kiwijam Auckland is the kind of jam where you see someone on a sewing machine making a wearable controller for their game. Another team laser cut wooden pieces for their board game. Epic!” says Ben. 

“There’s a hum, an energy about Kiwijam that is simultaneously wholesome and electric. I love seeing the creativity and sheer awesomeness that come out of just one weekend – from a father-daughter team making a game set in Narnia to a DJ mixing desk being used as a controller. There have been some stellar Auckland Kiwijams, but this was the best one yet.”

View games developed at Kiwijam 2021


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