RALEIGH, N.C. – A feeling of “dot com” déjà vu swept over me as I entered the downtown Lincoln Theater last Thursday night.

The place was packed with members of the International Game Developers Association and staffers from interactive game companies across the Triangle. They gathered not just for free pasta, pizza and drinks but also to see the creative results of teams that hooked up for a “Game Jam” the previous weekend.

In 48 hours, five teams representing Emergent Game Technologies, 3Dsolve, Red Storm Entertainment, Epic Games and Destineer Studios, cranked out the beginnings of games that the Triangle chapter of the IGDA hopes will lead to further leaps in technology, techniques and creativity.

For a few hours the developers were free of corporate and customer demands. And at the Lincoln Theater fellow free spirits came to network, share and perhaps be inspired by the kind of creativity the “dot com” frenzy created across the high tech industry, not just gaming.

“This was pretty liberating,” said Wesley “Stretch” Hunt of Epic Games about the Game Jam

Vincent Scheib of Emergent Technologies told the crowd that the weekend was “awesome” and “flew by” as he showed off a game called “Shape Slasher.”

Scheib’s comments were echoed by Rett Crocker of 3Dsolve as he showed off a “scrolling shooter” game titled “Trixxon.”

“It was fun. We weren’t making sure our customers were happy or responding to mad e-mails,” he said. “This was an opportunity to remember why I got into this business in the first place.”

The “dot com” boom triggered an outburst of creativity as young startup companies often led by young executives who didn’t know the meaning of the words “no,” “failure” and weren’t risk averse. Ties and white shirts disappeared; t-shirts, shorts and sandals were in. Hair grew long. These companies ignited the Internet and the Web, transforming forever the ways we communicate and do business.

Then economic reality hit, the bubble of enthusiasm and creatively largely deflated, and before anyone realized what was happening the suits were back in control. Meeting revenues and expenses for the next quarter became the driving goals.

The shakeout struck the gaming industry, too, as many firms flamed out. But the survivors and battle-scared veterans from some of the failures really are making a comeback, especially in the Triangle.

As the Game Jam show clearly demonstrated, creativity is not in short supply. Enthusiasm is rampant at companies such as Epic (creator of monster seller Gears of War).

True to the gaming spirit, only one or two people in the crowd topping 200 wore ties. No one had a suit. Jeans, shorts, t-shirts and flip flops were the norm. And the buzz generated by the collective excitement and creativity was contagious.

Who knows if any of the five games the Game Jam started will ever turn into a commercial product. Of course, business is business. No company can survive without product and customers. But the Game Jammers and the crowd showed that you can still have fun and be creative while trying to make a buck.