Freeplay 2019 Conference

Freeplay is Australia’s longest-running and largest independent games festival.

In 2019 Freeplay celebrates it’s 15th year with the theme ‘introspection’.

Join us on May 11th & 12th at RMIT’s Swanston Academic Building for two days of engaging, informative, personal, and introspective talks and performances.

Saturday 11th

Day One

08:30 am - Registration

Registration opens at 8:30am. Come and pick up your badges and lanyards, grab a coffee, pick a comfy seat and be ready for a 9:30am start!

09:30 am - Welcome to Country & Freeplay 2019

A Wurundjeri Elder will open Freeplay 2019, and we’ll do some house keeping before passing it onto our first keynote.

10:00 am - Keynote: Hannah Nicklin

“The Player is a Material Made Up of People”

Hannah Nicklin offers a provocation on the practice of making games for diverse audiences. Focussing on interviews with four people with different gender, mobility, racial and class backgrounds Hannah will ask: what could an aesthetic of radical difference look like? And how could specifying rather than broadening our design principles might produce a more radically diverse game design practice?

11:00 am – Morning Break (30min)

11:30 am - Holly Gramazio - Stealth Play

Usually, play takes place between bodies, or between a body and a machine, or a body and a physical artefact in the world. Perhaps players think about their moves or plan out their tactics, but ultimately they talk, press buttons, run or jump or move or shuffle or roll, and their play manifests itself; it’s right out there, other people can see it even if they don’t understand it, the player does something and the external state of the physical or digital world that they’re playing in changes.

But sometimes, play is secret. Sometimes it takes place in our heads. Sometimes a player and a non-player are indistinguishable to an external observer.

In this talk, Holly will discuss what it means to play in our heads, talking about different games and ways of playing that pass unnoticed by the outside world. She will cover different ways for play to be stealthy, and look at a continuum of games from the almost entirely external to the almost entirely internal, talking about how thinking about internalised play can be part of broader processes of game design.

12:15 pm - Gwen Foster - Without Glass Ceilings

Growing up in a third world country means limited opportunities, but limitation is the mother of innovation. A lot of game developers in the Philippines are passion driven, with a few incidentals that have helped build an inclusive community.

In this talk, Foster will discuss the journey of building the Philippine game industry, despite limited to zero resources. How game development is an opportunity to celebrate cultural identity, and redefine what is perceived as weakness and use them as strength.

In an unpredictable political climate, discover how developers create spaces and produce projects while ensuring there is no glass ceiling for anyone who wants to take the risk.

01:00 pm – Lunch Break (1hr)

02:00 pm - Phoebe Watson - Indigenous Culture in Videogames

Phoebe will be discussing her perspectives on the importance of Indigenous Culture in videogames and her experience working with community.

02:30 pm - Duncan Corrigan - Cultivating Playful Culture

In a culture that is driven by efficiency and performance, we often devalue actions and characteristics that contradict those notions. This internalised-culture will often make us feel guilty to linger, self conscious to play or anxious to try new things. It can limit how we engage and narrow our perception.

In this talk Duncan highlights one of these undervalued and under recognised characteristics, playfulness. He believes playfulness is a powerful concept that promotes creativity, open-mindedness and confidence. He’s exploring what it means to be playful, how we inspire playfulness in others and how we can help cultivate a culture that promotes and celebrates playfulness.

Duncan defines playfulness as acting volitionally to make the most of a situation. Doing that which you are wanting to do while at the same time pushing the boundaries and exploring new opportunities. With a focus on games, Duncan considers how we might inspire this type of engagement in our players and how that influences how our players engage outside the game too. To engage players in a way that frees them of guilt, fear and anxiety to ultimately cultivate a culture that is less judgemental, less anxious and more autonomous.

03:00 pm - Meghann O'Neill - The Venn Diagram of You (In Games)

How do you ‘break into the games industry’? Whoever you ask will tell you how they did it, which may be interesting, even useful. But this talk considers the ‘you’ in that sentence. What are ‘you’ bringing to the table? What can ‘you’ do in a way that’s special or unique? What are ‘your’ interests and goals? How can ‘you’ create a working life that makes ‘you’ happy, instead of, or while, you’re chasing the ‘illusive dream job’.

Meghann has explored a range of satisfying niches; reviewing videogames, devising dynamic music systems, teaching videogame composers, writing incremental hint guides for ‘spiritual successor’ games. She hopes to share wisdom about how to enjoy your unique journey through games, and worry less about what you feel you ‘should’ be doing.

03:30 pm – Afternoon Break (30min)

04:00 pm - Panel: Not Faking It While You Make It

Panel Members: Gemma Mahadeo & Ian MacLarty

Reflections on process, personal limitations, and working across different disciplines. Join game developer Ian MacLarty and writer Gemma Mahadeo as they explain their individual methods of working whilst collaborating on an unfinished and in-progress text-based game, and discuss how they incorporate the limitations of each others’ crafts to work on it as ideas on how to progress it come to them separately, sometimes when they meet or communicate online, and often organically, taking into account their differing industries, workloads, and sometimes health limitations.

You’ll see notes and screenshots of the game at various stages of development, and sketches or notes for material that will eventually be added into the game. Gemma and Ian will discuss their shared and individual goals for the project and how they accommodate each others’ approaches, even if quite different, and how this process shapes the resulting game. A work-in-progress build will be demoed for the first time in public.

04:30 pm - Panel: Twine Hang

Panel Members: Tegan Webb, Gemma Mahadeo, Imogen Baker

While the potential for Twine as a game development tool is generally well recognised, people from non-tech disciplines are starting to embrace its capabilities, and are using the software to create all number of interactive works, from critical reviews to poetry to performance art. Join writers Gemma Mahadeo, Imogen Baker and Tegan Webb as they play through each others’ cross-genre Twines, using each piece as a springboard to talk about the about the joys, trials and valuable insights that the non-linear format has brought to their wider writing practices, as well as their impressions on using Twine from a non-programming background.

05:00 pm - Panel: Drop & Aftercare

Panel Members: Creatrix Tiara, Mia Sereno, Lain Veres, Nikki Imberger

Game release drop, show drop, sub drop, reverse culture shock: so many variations on a similar phenomenon – the emotional collapse after a rush of endorphins. Learn about the ways that different worlds deal with drop and how to take care of ourselves after.

05:30 pm - Queerly Represent Me: We Made Ridiculous Mistakes So You Don't Have To

Speakers: Alayna Cole, Jess Zammit, Dakoda Barker

Queerly Represent Me was first conceived in May 2016, and became a not-for-profit in July 2018. How does an organisation go from the hint of an idea to an incorporated company? It’s a lot of skill, a little luck, and a hint of accidentally tripping in the right direction.

Join three of Queerly Represent Me’s directors as they talk about where the company started, where they are now, and all of the lessons they learned along the way. Find out what it’s like to spend six months working with lawyers, check out the ugly graphics Queerly Represent Me used to use to market itself, and laugh along with the team as they tell stories of how they have tried to figure out what the heck this company is even doing. Join in for a fun time looking at production tools and busy schedules, finding out what they’ve learned about press releases, and learning tricks for maintaining a rad company culture.

This talk is for you if you are contemplating starting a company, have accidentally started doing something with your life that you think might be worth turning into a more legitimate business, want to improve aspects of your organisation that you haven’t even thought about, or feel like advocacy work sometimes seems like you’re banging your head against a wall repeatedly and hoping it cracks one day. Definitely come along if you’re panicking slightly about business things so you can find out that we’re all in exactly the same boat.

Sunday 12th

Day Two

09:00 am - Registration

Registration opens at 9:00am. Come and pick up your badges and lanyards, grab a coffee, pick a comfy seat and be ready for a 9:50am start!

09:50 am - Welcome Back

Welcome back, it’s day two! A tiny bit of house keeping before we introduce our second keynote of the conference.

10:00 am - Keynote: Richard Lemarchand

“How to Build a Healthy, Happy Game”

Even in 2019, it’s still a challenge to find the best way to manage a game project, because of the limitations on time and money that we all inevitably face. It’s a challenge that game designer Richard Lemarchand (Uncharted, Soul Reaver) has been tackling for more than two decades. Now that he teaches budding Californian game designers in the USC Games program, the challenge is more important to him than ever, as he seeks to give young developers good processes that will lead to the best outcomes, both in terms of the quality of their finished games, and the good physical and mental health of their teams.

Luckily, Richard has some answers—and they’re simpler and more effective than you might think. Join him for a lightning-fast tour of the best production practices from Naughty Dog and USC, and leave with a bag of tips, tools and attitudes that will help you make better games in a healthy style.

11:00 am – Morning Break (30min)

11:30 am - Jaz Hee-jeong Choi - Play Like We Care

There is growing interest across different urban sectors to bring together diverse needs, desires, and experiences in co-creative and often playful engagements to inform future changes, as a form of caring with and for specific stakeholder groups. This talk encourages us to go beyond the institutionalised and increasingly formulaic approaches to care and participatory play, and question who is actually being included and excluded, how co-creation is carried out, and to what end – to play like we care.

12:15 pm - Rosa Carbo-Mascarell - Deep Games

How do you represent human experiences and emotions in games? Losing a grandparent, cuddling a loved one, finding supportive friends, growing up, moving out – these are universal experiences yet they are often abstract, ephemeral and hard to express. Games have historically avoided these themes altogether.

In this talk we will explore how to design games about human experiences. We’ll be looking at how existing games have tackled the issue and explore the speaker’s own design process turning her life events into games.

01:00 pm – Lunch Break (1hr)

02:00 pm - Performance - Maize Wallin: Noise Drawers

Maize Wallin will perform with their VR instrument, Noise Drawers.

Noise Drawers is a VR game in which you play a totally new form of instrument. Surrounded by panels of drawers, each of which has a different, unique sound, you reach and interact with them, opening and closing them in various expressive ways to create music.

Maize will open the talk with a short performance, then explore how artistic expression has helped them work through mental health and burn out, as well as coming to terms with their first experience of PTSD. While freelancing, artists often neglect the chance to work through their emotions and feelings. But, concentrating on artistic expression is cheaper than therapy!

02:30 pm - Performance - Jacob Leaney & Jade Stewart: TweetSong

Inspired by the careless frivolity of Twitter narrative games, this interactive event invites the audience to directly participate in how play, humour, and human connection can bring joy into games and interactive experiences, in lieu of traditional challenge focused mechanics.

Game Designer and Musician Jacob Leaney will improvise music on piano and narrate (sing) an improvised Twitter narrative game, created live on stage by Narrative Designer Jade Stewart. The story will be based on audience direction, as they choose option a) or b) with every tweet.

This event is directed at creatives who may feel trapped with the confines of what play and games can be, but all are encouraged to participate! Takeaways include joyful feelings and laughter, how humour and less ‘serious’ play can bring players together, and the power of improvisation in writing and idea generation.

03:00 pm - Performance - Jini Maxwell: (really bad) Slam Poetry

Bad takes, truth bombs, deep confessions. We invite a number of special guests and members of the audience to sign up and perform really bad slam poetry. Our panel of judges will score how bad your performance is on a scale of zero to ten, ten being pretty damn terrible.

03:30 pm – Afternoon Break (30min)

04:00 pm - Panel: Indigenous Place & Pervasive Play

Panel Members: Hugh Davies, Olivia Guntarik, Troy Innocent, Carolyn Briggs

Pokémon Go has brought augmented reality and pervasive games to centre stage, prompting new questions about how we use public space and city streets. Notions of place are invariably entangled with questions of belonging and exclusion, and of how mobile technologies are used to create locative experiences. How are pervasive games aware and evocative of local, urban, and historic notions of place? In what ways can locative practices engage with and reveal Indigenous understandings of place?

In addressing these questions, this panel discusses TIMeR, an augmented reality audio-game developed in 2019 and sponsored by RMIT University. Featuring stories of land, river and sky with Boonwurrung elder N’Arweet Carolyn Briggs, players of TIMeR are transformed into wayfarers as they move across the landscape to uncover new histories, bringing new insights to familiar routes.

Developed with collaboration from Elders in Residence at RMIT’s Ngarara Willim Centre, the TIMeR project considers how traditional and alternate knowledges of space can be presented through pervasive games, and how space itself can complicate cultural and locational realities. Within the messy space that arises when people, technology, play and place come together in playable cities, this work challenges preconceptions about the role of location-based technologies across history, culture and society.

04:30 pm - Panel: Playable Cities Melbourne

Panel Members: Troy Innocent, Holly Gramazio, Chad Toprak, Georgia Symons

Urban play has changed our relationship with the city. Playable Cities Now have the opportunity to make the city itself a platform for play through radical interventions into the democratic use of data, and the creation of social frameworks that connect people, place, technology and code.

Playable cities can lead to civic conversations that are democratic and inclusive – and that connect people in that conversation across different layers of the city, reimagining what it was, what it is now, and what it could be. Melbourne is already a playful city, what would happen if it became playable? The Playable City Melbourne conversation talks to its multi-layered identity – as a creative city, technological city, a diverse and multicultural city, a liveable city that is growing fast. It looks at what playable cities are now in response to our particular social, cultural and environmental context.

How does this connect to broader discussion on the cultural value of games and play? What are the opportunities for artist gamemakers situating play in public space? What topics are relevant now in civic conversations? Come along to the first town meeting of Playable City Melbourne and have your say.

05:00 pm - Pecha-Kucha Micro Talks

Speakers: Phoebe Watson, Morgan Meehan-Lam, Hien Pham, Fraser Brumley, Jen Lade, Aspen Forster, Paulina Samy, Chad Toprak

Eight speakers, 20 slides each, 15 seconds per slide, all automated. Come and listen to some of Australia’s most talented and emerging artists as they reflect on this year’s theme ‘introspection’ asdand talk about their practice and what it means to be them. Listen to them speak about their work, passions, struggles, upbringings, and journeys.

05:45 pm - Closing Remarks

It’s the end of the Freeplay 2019 Conference. Join us for some final thoughts and thank yous before we depart for dinner and meet again at the 2019 Freeplay Awards Ceremony.

Freeplay acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Custodians of the Lands upon which the festival takes place.
We pay respect to their Elders past, present, and emerging, and to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the wider community and beyond.
Sovereignty was never ceded, and this always was and always will be Aboriginal land.