Freeplay is Australia’s longest-running and largest independent games festival, located in Melbourne, Australia. Freeplay draws Australia’s independent games community together at its conference, public events program, arcade, and awards. The festival joins players, makers, critics, artists, designers, coders, academics, students, and families 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, State Library of Victoria, Next Wave, The Wheeler Centre, Federation Square, Arts Centre Melbourne, NGV, Testing Grounds, and the City of Melbourne over the years.
Freeplay continues to champion creative and artistic exploration and experimentation within games, highlighting and uncovering grassroots talent in Melbourne and Australia, as games continue to grow and gain cultural significance and legitimacy.
Chad Toprak is an independent game designer, curator, and academic, best known for his curatorial work with Hovergarden, Melbourne’s videogame curatorial duo, and his more recent work on the Contours exhibition, which highlights emerging contemporary Australian games that sit at the fringes of the medium. He was named in Develop Pacific’s inaugural 30 Under Thirty list in 2018. In the past, Chad has worked on award winning games such as Turnover, the four-player multigravity steal-the-ball-n-run frenzy, Cart-Load-O-Fun, a two-player collaborative physical game designed for trains and trams, and dualcyon, the experimental Leap Motion & VR puzzle game for two, and This Is Not A VR Game, an audio-only VR performance. In his spare time, Chad finds himself indulging in sour worm lollies and wasabi flavoured peas.
Benjamin Turner (Festival Coordinator) is a game developer currently interested in creating ‘Slice of Life’ games & supporting locally made art. he’s been involved in events such as Contours, GX Australia, Unite Melbourne, & Freeplay. He is also known for games like, Concrete Boots, Tactus, & Jounrey to the Centre of the Partyzone.
Cherie Davidson (Chair of the Freeplay Awards) is a jack-of-all-trades game developer and teacher, currently working as a producer & programmer on multiple indie games, including Intergalactic Space Princess. Previously at Media Molecule, she worked as Associate Producer on Dreams and Tearaway Unfolded. In 2015 she was Freeplay Independent Games Festival’s first ever Jury Chair. She has lectured and tutored game development at Melbourne’s RMIT University from 2012 to 2015, in 2016 she was named in Develop’s 30 under 30 and in 2017 she was nominated in DevelopHER and selected to join BAFTA crew.
Pritika Sachdev (Social Media Coordinator) is a community manager who has a passion for all forms of narrative. She loves storytelling and believes that extends to how developers engage with their players. Pritika’s worked in all sorts of areas of games, from 3D artist to producer, and is currently the social media manager for CheckPoint, and co-producer for Contours. Outside of work, Pritika has a passion for video games academia, specifically within feminine and character representation within games.
Claire Merquita (Chair) has worked as a writer, producer and digital content specialist in the media and broadcast industries since 2010. In Singapore where she grew up, she wrote, produced and directed for television and corporate clients, while lecturing in media theory at Lasalle College of the Arts. In 2014 she moved to Melbourne to join crowdfunding platform Pozible as Singapore Country Manager, later overseeing their small, vibrant team as General Manager. She joined CG Spectrum College as Marketing Manager in 2016, where she now directs digital marketing strategy, content and PR for the school.
Trent Kusters (Secretary) 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.
Anna Burkey (Treasurer) 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.
Dr. 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 holds a PhD in transmedia gaming through Monash University.