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, the State Library of Victoria, Next Wave, The Wheeler Centre, Federation Square, The Arts Centre, 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 local videogame curatorial duo, and his more recent work on the Contours exhibition, which highlights emerging local contemporary fringe games. 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 & VR puzzle game for two. Chad is in the process of completing a PhD at RMIT (although currently on hold), where he writes about the practice of videogame curation, the New Arcade movement and the culture that surrounds it. In his spare time, Chad finds himself indulging in sour worm lollies and wasabi flavoured peas – he has yet to try them both together.
Benjamin Turner (Festival Coordinator) is a game developer from Melbourne who has been involved in events such as Contours, GX Australia, Hovergarden, GCAP and Unite. Ben has also been involved in bridging the gap between students at RMIT and the Melbourne games industry by exhibiting student work at Bar SK. He’s recently graduated from RMIT and is looking to be more active in exhibiting and preserving work from Australia and New Zealand, as well as creating his own games and playful experiences within the games industry.
Marigold Bartlett (Visual Art Lead) currently works in the games industry as art director on Wayward Strand, and is passionate about localisation in game worlds as well as minor historical narratives in games spaces. She has a background in traditional illustration, and has worked on games such as Florence, Killing Time at Lightspeed, Magister Ludi, and Movement Study 01. Marigold is one of four Film Victoria Women in Games fellows in 2017.
Creatrix Tiara (Volunteer Manager) writes, produces, and performs work based around identity, liminality, and community, particularly through her experiences as a queer immigrant gender-nonconforming woman of colour. Relatively new to games, she made her entry via two games related to the experiences of immigration: Here’s Your Fuckin’ Papers, a puzzle-based parody of Papers Please, and What The @#(?@ Do They Need Now?, about the US Travel Ban. She’s very interested in the intersections of games and performance art, such as immersive experiences and escape rooms, and how they can help people understand the lives of those different than them via direct interaction and empathy.
Maize Wallin (Workshops Coordinator) is a Melbourne based composer, sound designer, and audio programmer. Maize consults in Australia and around the world on these topics, and is heavily engaged in the game development community, and in activism and representation within it. Maize’s community focused works include PyEnbies (2017), #ResistJam presented by IGDA and Devolver (2016), Game Art Melbourne Exhibition, co-directing Glitchmark’s Holograph conference (2014), musical instrument videogame series CTRL_Coda, and Encounters by Microsoft Social NUI lab and VCA in 2015. Maize’s work has been shown extensively in prominent Melbourne galleries and museums, and had a two month residency in the Vienna MuseumsQuartier in 2016.
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Hugh Davies (Acting Vice Chair) 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.
James Patto is a technology and intellectual property lawyer at King & Wood Mallesons, where he specialises in a wide range of IT related work. James routinely advises public and private sector clients on a range of technology, corporate, intellectual property and regulatory matters. This includes drafting documents for and negotiating various corporate and technology transactions (including large IT and BPO outsourcing and Agile software development). James is particularly interested in the innovative technologies and ideas that independent game designers utilise to convey their vision to players.
Dr. Helen Stuckey is an arts curator, historian and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Flinders University working on Australia’s early game history. At the Australian Centre for the Moving Image she initiated, produced and curated the Games Lab (2005 – 2009), a dedicated exhibition space for exploring videogame culture. She was the Director of RMIT University’s Games Program in the School of Media and Communication (2009-2011). She recently completed her PhD on how museums can work with online knowledge communities on the preservation and exhibition of videogames as part of the ARC Linkage Project – Play It Again: Creating a Playable History of Australasian Digital Games, for Industry, Community and Research Purposes.
Ben Chiverton (Treasurer) is a Certified Practicing Accountant and works as a tax manager with Nagle Accounting through which he has had exposure to many mediums. Ben is very passionate about gaming and its growth and development as a medium.
Dr. Dan Golding is a lecturer in Media and Communications at Swinburne University and a writer with over 200 publications (ABC Arts, Crikey, Buzzfeed, Meanjin, Kotaku). He co-wrote Game Changers (Affirm Press, 2016), and holds a PhD from The University of Melbourne. In 2013, he won the ‘Best Games Journalist’ award at the 11th Annual Australian IT Journalism ‘Lizzie’ awards.