Freeplay is Australia’s longest-running and largest independent games festival, located in Melbourne, Australia. Freeplay draws Australia’s independent game community together at its conference, public events program, arcade, and awards. The festival joins players, makers, critics, artists, academics, and students for a critical celebration of the artistry of games and digital culture.
Since 2004, Freeplay has played host to thousands of attendees and hundreds of talks from speakers such as Harvey Smith (Deus Ex), Kieron Gillen (Rock, Paper, Shotgun), Jonathan Blow (Braid), Brandon Boyer (IGF chair), Adam Saltsman (Canabalt), Mare Sheppard (N+), Tesuya Mizaguchi (Rez), Erin Robinson (Gravity Ghost), and Steve Swink (Scale). Freeplay has a proud history of showcasing local independent games at both its arcade and awards, including Jolly Rover (Best Australian Game 2010), Antichamber (Best Australian Game 2011), Stickets (Best Australian Game 2012), and Framed (Best Australian Game 2013). Iconically-Melbourne, Freeplay has consistently been part of the city’s culture, having partnered with ACMI, the State Library of Victoria, Next Wave, The Wheeler Centre, and Federation Square over the years.
Dan Golding is a critic, journalist, and a sessional lecturer at The University of Melbourne, where he is currently completing a PhD. He has written about the intersection of videogames, art, and public policy for ABC Arts, Crikey, Metro Magazine, Hyper Magazine, and The Guardian, Meanjin, The Walkley Magazine, Kill Your Darlings, Kotaku, PC PowerPlay. In 2013, he won the ‘Best Games Journalist’ award at the 11th Annual Australian IT Journalism ‘Lizzie’ awards. Dan is also a co-founder and editor of publishing company Press Select. Dan is also a regular on the Triple R radio program Byte Into It.
Ben McKenzie (Production Manager, Chair of Programming Committee) is a performer, writer, game designer and producer. He is best known for the improvised adventure show Dungeon Crawl, hit live podcast Splendid Chaps, and sci-fi comedy audio series Night Terrace. He is Head Game Designer at Melbourne-based Pop Up Playground, with whom his work includes the interactive theatre piece #TrueRomansAll in collaboration with Bell Shakespeare, and bicycle adventure game 1000 Cities for the City of Melbourne. 2015 marks his fourth year working as Production Manager with Freeplay. Ben’s favourite dinosaur is Stegosaurus.
Marigold Bartlett (Visual Art Lead) is a game artist, digital painter and illustrator. She has worked with Freeplay in past years as both visual art lead and as a speaker presenting her 2014 student project, Movement Study 01. She works mostly on independent titles and as an auxiliary artist for game designers. Recently her collaborative work was exhibited with Experimenta: The Second International Biennale of Media Art at RMIT gallery.
Cherie Davidson (Chair of the Freeplay Awards) is a jack-of-all-trades indie game developer and lecturer at RMIT. She works on the non-combat MMO, Wander, and acts as producer and technical artist for an upcoming local game, Inventory Imp. In 2013 she was a judge and speaker at Freeplay, and holds BA in Digital Art and a BIT in Games and Graphics Programming. Cherie has a strong interest in meaningful game design and loves the technical joy of creation through code. In her spare time she develops games fuelled by her personal interest in topics of feminism, social justice, politics and occasionally even fun.
Fraser Allison (Volunteer Manager) is a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, researching the role of games and technology in mediating social interactions. His past lives include: market research consultant, analysing the emotional and rational drivers of consumer behaviour for some of Australia’s most successful companies; game design and culture blogger at RedKingsDream.com; political writer and communications manager at Express Media; and radio host on 3RRR.
Chad Toprak (Associate Producer – Party) is a game designer, PhD candidate who writes about the New Arcade, and co-director of Melbourne’s indie games curator duo Hovergarden.
Leena van Deventer (Associate Producer – Sunday Sessions) is a writer, game developer, and teacher. She has worked on apps for the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and Melbourne Writers Festival, and currently works in the game design degrees at Swinburne University and RMIT University, teaching interactive storytelling.
Amani Naseem (Associate Producer – Jam) is a designer and researcher from the Maldives based in Copenhagen and Melbourne. As a member of the Copenhagen Game Collective, she has been involved in promoting game culture by organising game jams and curating workshops and events among the Indie Games scene in Copenhagen. Amani is one of the co-founders of w00t Copenhagen Play Festival and is currently a PHD student at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia.
Brendan Keogh (Print and Online Editor) is a videogame critic and academic from Melbourne. He is a PhD candidate at RMIT University, and writes for a variety of publications including Overland, Reverse Shot, and Unwinnable. He is the author of Killing is Harmless: A Critical Reading of Spec Ops The Line.
Snow McNally (Associate Producer – Online) is an independent designer, writer and queer advocate.
Maya Violet (Associate Producer – Online) is a developer, educator, and trans activist, currently working for Voxel Agents.
Andrew Brophy (Associate Producer – Party) is a game designer based in Melbourne who attempts to provoke certain emotions with his work using humour, bizarre stories and a lurid visual style. Outside of making games, he is also responsible for starting Braingale, a collective of artists and designers.
Trent Kusters (Chair) is the founder and director of indie game development collective League of Geeks and a lecturer at the Victorian College of the Arts. Previously, Trent was design director at Torus Games, consulted the film industry as well as state and federal governments on game development and design, has written on games culture for major publications, and was named one of Australia’s 25 top young achievers in 2010 by Triple J. Trent is also invested in the future of game development; fostering and mentoring students and contributing to the game development community wherever possible.
Jess Kilby (Vice Chair) is an artist, writer and game designer. She is the Pervasive Play Developer for Pop Up Playground – a Melbourne collective that makes physical, social games and playful experiences. Jess holds an MA in Creative Technology and a BA in Journalism, and was one of the first writers outside of the games press to cover ARGs and other ludic uses of emerging, social technologies. She is currently pursuing a PhD in public art through RMIT University.
Cameron Rogers (Secretary) is a screen industries lawyer, specialising in film, television, transmedia projects, and the games industry. He is a founding board member of the Freeplay Independent Games Festival. Cam has acted for several games companies around Australia, including Tin Man Games, The Voxel Agents and Robot Circus, and is passionate about the future of the industry in Australia.
Hugh Davies is a senior lecturer in Media, Screen and Sound at La Trobe University, and is deputy director of the Centre for Creative Arts. Prior to assembling the Freeplay Board with former Executive Director Paul Callaghan, Hugh held a position on the board of the Australian Network for Art and Technology for six years, serving for two years as board chair. Hugh is the founder and creative director of Analogue Art Map, and works from his practice as an artist have been exhibited internationally. He is pursuing a PhD in transmedia gaming through Monash University.
Anna Burkey is a producer and cultural programmer, creating and driving high-quality programs. Anna works across the creative arts, but is particularly fond of books and reading. Her artistic roots lie in Edinburgh, the world’s largest festival city, and she’s fascinated by the way that stories translate across format, from illustration, words and books to games and technology. Currently, Anna is managing Reader Development for the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, supporting the development of a new strand of family programming and heading up the national Centre for Youth Literature.
Vanessa Toholka is a knowledge management consultant for Minter Ellison, and previously worked in New Media and Digital Systems at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. She has over thirteen years experience working in online content and strategy, specialising in developing and producing digital applications in the education, media and legal industries. Vanessa is an announcer Triple R’s weekly technology and computing show Byte Into IT. She holds a Bachelor of Information Management (Hons) from Monash University.
Gideon Hornung is a senior strategist with over eight years’ experience in communications and digital strategy. Currently working for OMD, one of Australia’s largest media buying agencies, he works with a number of Australia’s leading brands across automotive, education and the insurance sector. With a passion for technology and consumer behaviour, Gideon also regularly lectures at RMIT on topics ranging from social media to the evolving media landscape.
Amelia King was the originator behind the Victorian Government’s initial support for the games development industry in the early 2000s. She devised and established the Digital Media Fund at Film Victoria where her innovative and leading program design supported almost every Victorian-based games development company. Amelia’s support and knowledge of the creative digital media sector started way back in the early 1990s when she was the General Manager for Modern Image Makers Association. She re-branded and re-positioned the organisation into Experimenta Media Arts where it flourished and led the country in digital media arts exhibition and gained an international reputation.
Helen Stuckey is a media arts curator and researcher in Australia. Her recent curatorial practice has focused the cultural significance of videogames and their collection and exhibition within the gallery.
Leena van Deventer is a writer, game developer, and teacher. She has worked on apps for the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and Melbourne Writers Festival, and currently works in the game design degrees at Swinburne University and RMIT University, teaching interactive storytelling.
John Sietsma is a games teacher and developer who wants to make the medium all it can be. He has worked at many Australian games studios, large and small.
Brendan Keogh is a PhD candidate at RMIT University, and a critic at Overland, Reverse Shot, and Unwinnable. He is the author of Killing is Harmless: A Critical Reading of Spec Ops The Line.
Marigold Bartlett is a game artist, digital painter and illustrator. Recently her collaborative work was exhibited with Experimenta: The Second International Biennale of Media Art at RMIT gallery.
Chad Toprak is a game designer, PhD candidate who writes about the New Arcade, and co-director of Melbourne’s indie games curator duo Hovergarden.