Freeplay is Australia’s longest running independent games festival exploring the intersection of indie development, culture, arts and education.
Since 2004, the Freeplay festival has presented a unique mix of panels, lectures, and hands-on gaming to a diverse audience of gamers, developers, artists, musicians, writers, film-makers, reviewers, educators, and the general public. As games emerge as the dominant art-form of the 21st century, Freeplay is committed to exploring the creative and artistic opportunities of the form, showcasing the best of local indie development to the world, critiquing and analysing the surrounding creative culture, bringing the world’s best developers to Melbourne, and reframing and re-presenting videogames outside of their usual environments.
Started in 2004 by Next Wave, Freeplay began life in a converted karate dojo on Swanston Street. The brainchild of Marcus Westbury and Katharine Neil, Freeplay 2004 saw over 300 people come along to sessions on indie life, coding, art, politics, and quality of life – and the E3.1b expo.
Harvey Smith and David Michael speaking at Freeplay 2004
In 2005, Freeplay moved to the Australian Centre for the Moving Image for the same mix of sessions on games and culture including geek culture and the mainstream, game reviewing, quality of life, modding, and machinima. 2007′s Freeplay continued at ACMI with a focus on games as artistic expression as exhibited by keynote international speaker Jonathan Blow.
Audience and keynote speaker Jonathan Blow at Freeplay 2007
In 2009, Eve Penford-Dennis and Paul Callaghan took over direction of the festival in its new location at the State Library of Victoria. Adding to the already successful mix of talks and workshops on games and culture was a public program in Experimedia showcasing the work of local developers. The success was built on in 2010 with over 1500 people coming along to experience Freeplay’s unique mix of gaming and culture.
In 2011, Freeplay grew to 5 days, introducing a new Playful Program which took games and play out into the streets and bars of Melbourne. Over 2000 people came along to the festival’s new shape and returning Conference, Arcade and Expo, and Awards. After the festival, Freeplay also collaborated with NGV Studio on a 6 week exhibition on games and play titled Game/Play.
The 2012 Festival is scheduled to run from September 19-23, with the theme of Chaos and Grace. Growing once again, Freeplay 2012 includes the return of the Conference Program, Arcade and Expo, Playful events, and the introduction of a dedicated developer program in partnership with ACMI and Artist Workshops with support from Arts Victoria. In addition, Freeplay has worked with ACMI to curate monthly Re:Play events during the Game Masters exhibition.