Freeplay 2021 Festival Schedule

8–13 June

Freeplay 2021 online sessions are accessible for free on our YouTube channel.

All sessions are in Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST).

Wednesday 9 June

10:30 am - Welcome to Freeplay 2021 // Chad Toprak

Freeplay Director Chad Toprak kicks off the festival by walking us through the 2021 programme and theme, highlighting key events to attend. Some thank yous and house keeping are also in order.

WATCH

11:00 am - Freeplay 2021 Opening Keynote // Squinky

Duration: 1hr (11:00 am – 12:00 pm)

D. Squinkifer, aka Squinky, is a transgender and neurodivergent new media artist who makes weird videogames about feelings while somehow continuing to survive in a late capitalist cyberpunk dystopia. After stints in both industry and academia, and gaining recognition for works such as Dominique Pamplemousse and Coffee: A Misunderstanding, they are currently in the process of cofounding a worker co-op game studio called Soft Chaos with two of their very good friends, while at the same time working on a solo album of short games titled Squinky and the Squinkettes present: SECOND PUBERTY.

WATCH

01:30 pm - PANEL: Indigenising Games: A Yarn Between Mob and Whānau

Duration: 1hr 30m (1:30 pm – 3:00 pm)

Participants: Lisa Blakie, Naphtali Faulkner, Phoebe Watson, Dakoda Barker

A conversation between Lisa Blakie, designer on Atawhai Interactive’s upcoming Toroa, Naphtali Faulkner, designer of Umurangi Generation, Phoebe Watson, designer on DragonBear Studios’ upcoming Innchanted, and Dakoda Barker, a writer, editor, teacher, designer, and director/consultant for Represent Me. Lisa, Naphtali, Phoebe, and Dakoda will be sharing and speaking to the positives on inclusion of First Nations people in game development, both on screen and behind the scenes in development.

WATCH

04:00 pm - PANEL: Games Gig: Aligning Indie Music with Indie Games

Duration: 1hr (4:00 pm – 5:00 pm)

Participants: Jacob Leaney (Monster Mansion), Maize Wallin, Narayana Johnson (River Boy), Allison Walker

With a panel of musos who are involved with indie games and indie music, we’ll be discussing the value of combining these industries and how what it means to have an event like Games Gig (the Thursday night Freeplay music event). We’ll also discuss how we can push horizons in what music in games is from an indie perspective.

WATCH

06:00 pm - The Book Ritual - Interactive Performance // Alistair Aitcheson

Duration: 1hr (6:00 pm – 7:00 pm)

A livestreamed performance of the alternative controller game The Book Ritual. The audience are invited to contribute to the streamer’s book through YouTube Live chat, or follow along by writing in and tearing up a book at home.

The Book Ritual is a narrative game about exploring the emotions that come with loss and change, played using a real book and a specially modified paper shredder. The shredder is connected to the computer, so the story will not advance unless the player tears up pages from their book and puts them through the paper shredder.

A new chapter – In Memory of Absent Friends – has been written for the game at a time when exhibitions are no longer possible. It is designed to be performed on-screen, with players following the ritual at home or typing messages in chat for the performer to write into their book. Players will be invited to share their feelings with their book and tell it about themselves and their reflections, by writing inside it and doing creative exercises with its pages.

WATCH

08:00 pm - PANEL: Games as Poetry, Poetry as Play

Duration: 1hr 30m (8:00 pm – 9:30 pm)

Participants: Aaron Lim, Maria Mison, Cecile Richard, Gemma Mahadeo, Nana

Short interactive fiction, playable poems, poetic games, lyric games, rituals of play, knock-knock jokes, nursery rhyme games: games and poetry have informed and infused each other for many years. This panel of multidisciplinary creators will discuss the applications of poetry in making games, and making games that function as poetry through 3 perspectives: digital games, analog games, and poetry.

WATCH

Thursday 10 June

11:00 am - Mad Poetics in Indie Games // Xuan Nguyen

Duration: 30m (11:00 am – 11:30 am)

Games as a narrative art form provide immense potential as a vehicle for Mad Poetics. Madness is a reclaimed disability term for those with especially stigmatized neurodivergence (i.e. personality disorders, schizo spectrum, dissociative identity disorders, and others). Mad Poetics, as Nguyen conceives of it, refers to poetic works whose language is influenced by the altered reality of a particular class of neurodivergence.

Poetry, though its limitless flexibility of language in metaphor, meter, and symbol, invites an expression of unreality known only to the Mad.

And there is power in that, not only in bringing the Poetic to life through language, but in the immersive world of a game, engaging visual, auditory, and touch sensations.

“There is power in creating something that allows people from the consensus reality to know what kind of Mad unreality you live in,” Nguyen says.

Through their own experience developing OCHITSUBAKI (Winter 2021), their Mad Poetic visual novel about (the impossibility of) translating trauma, Nguyen speaks about the way that the Language of the Mad invites poetry as a medium of expression.

WATCH

12:30 pm - Creating Games With The Parasocial In Mind // Jack Hart

Duration: 30m (12:30 pm – 1:00 pm)

In this presentation independent game developer Jack Hart discusses what making personal games is like and how it directly affects the design process. Over the years they have made several games that directly ask the player what their relationship is with the game itself and their role as a player. As game developers we should be more critical of the developer-player relationship. Jack describes the current parasocial relationship between players and developers and what things developers can do to protect themselves and build better games with this relationship in mind. Jack briefly runs through their prior games that challenge the developer-player relationship (The Bad Games Trilogy & Museum of Self) and then takes a deeper look at their current project A Museum of Self & Space.

WATCH

02:00 pm - Press Start-Up! Launching a Live Game Music Business During a Pandemic // Nicholas Young & Toby Mach

Duration: 1h (2:00 pm – 3:00 pm)

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on people all over the world for well over a year now, with the light at the end of the tunnel only just beginning to show. Join members of Sinister Creative, a live game music event production startup, to hear first-hand insight, experiences and strategies as to how to handle areas such as management, marketing, logistics and mental health for yourself and your team in these uncertain times. Followed by an exclusive unplugged preview of SOUND BYTE, Sinister Creative’s Freeplay ’21 concert featuring well-loved music from indie Australian games by Australian composers.

WATCH

05:00 pm - Meet Me in the Firepit // Jae Stuart & Cecile Richard

Duration: 1h (5:00 pm – 6:00 pm)

Meet Me in the Firepit: An Oral History of the Freeplay Zone.

One of the most special things about festivals and conferences like Freeplay is sharing them with others, whether it’s watching a talk together, catching up with a friend you haven’t seen since the last big event, playing an installation game or just queuing for a snack between talks.

2020 tried to take this from us. Jae and Cecile said no and made the Freeplay Zone.

This talk will delve into the process of creating the Freeplay Zone, the weird and wonderful online spaces that inspired it and the many antics that ensued from iconic 3 hour youtube DJ sets to baby relay races to hang outs at the firepit until 5am.

WATCH

07:00 pm - Games Gig (Online)

Location: Online / Freeplay ZONE

Artists: Monster Mansion (Jacob Leaney), Maize Wallin, River Boy (Narayana Johnson), Allison Walker

Games Gig is Freeplay’s Thursday night event, a music focused online gathering featuring a line-up of indie, pop, and electronic game composers performing their music from Melbourne indie games. Games Gig focuses heavily on electronic and pop music, in contrast to orchestral and chiptune focused game music events.

WATCH

Friday 11 June

11:00 am - Game Engines in Activist Spatial Experiences // Rusaila Bazlamit

Duration: 30m (11:00 am – 11:30 am)

In this session, the speaker will discuss the potential of using game engines, as tools for design activism, to create virtual spaces that communicate complex contemporary political narratives.

Specifically, the speaker will reflect on the process of creating “Re:Visit Palestine” a prototype of an activist spatial experience that is built using Unity game engine. The speaker will explore some of the potentials and limitations of using game engines beyond gaming and gamification experiences to create immersive virtual environments that serve as design activism tools.

The speaker will conclude with recommendation of how using game engines to create spatial experiences that efficiently communicate experiential narratives from contemporary political conflicts can provide new venues for virtual, museum-like, politically driven experiences pushing the boundaries of not only who gets to talk but also who gets to be heard.

WATCH

12:30 pm - Pieces of Me: Making Personal Games // Mel Taylor

Duration: 1h (12:30 pm – 1:30 pm)

When I started making Blueberry, I had the idea of making a game about someone who stayed in bed. What if you never start the day? Never continue to live your life? Getting up in the morning is often the first condition for anything meaningful to happen. It was much later I found out that it is also a sign of depression.

Blueberry invites you on a journey through a woman’s mind from birth to death. You climb the Tower of Life and gather the pieces of Blueberry’s shattered memories, find the missing ones and unravel the mystery of her trauma.

Developing Blueberry became a conversation with myself about childhood trauma, motherhood and a deep disconnected from the safety of a family. It probably says many things about myself although I never intended it to be about me. This is a personal story about putting parts of yourself into your game, creating intimate and meaningful experiences and how to separate yourself from your game.

WATCH

02:30 pm - A Crypto Christmas Carol // Jonathon Tree & Andrew Gleeson

Duration: 1h (2:30 pm – 3:30 pm)

In 1843, Charles Dickens published a story about some guy called Scrooge. In the story, Scrooge was visited by ghosts who showed him the past, present and future he would create if he didn’t change his miserly ways. In 2021, cryptocurrency and NFTs are all over the news and are cannibalising the art world, the gaming world, and the regular world. Join Andy and Jon as they play the part of all three ghosts showing you a glimpse of the history of commodification of collectibles and games, the present day world of micro-transactions and cosmetic item marketplaces, and our horrible blockchain future. You’re Scrooge in this analogy I guess? Sorry about that.

WATCH

04:30 pm - Australian Game Dev Co-ops - A Fireside Chat // Mateja Simovic & Maize Wallin

Duration: 1h (4:30 pm – 5:30 pm)

Join Mateja Simovic and Maize Wallin in a fireside chat, where they discuss starting co-op game development studios, from Inflorescent games (makers of UFO TOFU) and Ghost Pattern (makers of Wayward Strand). Mateja and Maize discuss differences in being in NSW and Victoria, starting a co-op from scratch, and transitioning from a company, have no state support, and having much more.

Learn about struggles and successes with accountants, lawyers and paperwork, different approaches to consensus based collaboration, accessibility of information and democracy, and dealing with inequality of opportunity, and money.

This session will be delivered as a pre-recorded video.

WATCH

06:00 pm - Voiceworks ✕ Freeplay: Geist Launch

Location: Online / Freeplay ZONE

Hey everyone 🙂 I know that the theme for the latest Voiceworks Online issue is “Geist” but idk what that means exactly :/ I think it means ghost but idk… sounds fancy and/or german… what’s a geist? Join Voiceworks for DIY seances using household items to draw forth the spirits of Voiceworks Online’s third issue, themed ‘Geist’! This special Freeplay ZONE event will feature sneak peeks at work from Brianna J. Muir, River Gammon, Victor Guan Yi Zhou, Isobel D’Cruz Barnes and Tiia Kelly. Head to the Voiceworks room in the ZONE after the stream to see more.

ATTEND or WATCH

Saturday 12 June

11:00 am - Power of Game and Art to Resist Power // Mandy Wong & Jerry Chan

Duration: 30m (11:00 am – 11:30 am)

This session explores how a videogame can be an influential and artistic medium against oppressive regimes in this digital generation. Taking ground from the social and geopolitical conflict in Hong Kong, we will discuss the role and impact of games and art under the restriction of freedom of speech — and lead to a broader participation against authoritarianism in a global context.

WATCH

12:30 pm - MENTAL Jam // Michelle Chen

Duration: 30m (12:30 pm – 1:00 pm)

The session will talk about MENTAL Jam, a research project that is interested in understanding people’s experiences of depression and anxiety. People with lived experience of mental illness have used different artistic mediums to portray their stories as a form of self-expression and to raise community awareness. Videogames offer interactive and immersive experiences that can inspire players to gain knowledge of the lived perspectives of others.

This session will be delivered as a pre-recorded video.

WATCH

02:00 pm - PANEL: Is This A Joke/Game to You?: Micro RPGs as Comedy

Duration: 1h 30m (2:00 pm – 3:30 pm)

Speakers: Aaron Lim, Paul Matijevic, Grant Howitt, Adira Slattery

Join this panel of tabletop game designers as they examine the format of micro RPGs as vehicles for comedy and commentary. Explore the links between game design and comedic writing, what the lyric game trend and “joke” games mean for game design innovation, incorporating “joke” games into game design practice, and why “shitpost games” are a compelling practice.

This session will be delivered as a pre-recorded video.

WATCH

05:00pm - Meaningful Choices: Gameplay in Theatre and Film // Jedidjah Julia Noomen

Duration: 30m (5:00 pm – 5:30 pm)

More and more independent filmmakers, theatre directors and multidisciplinary artists are discovering interactivity and gameplay elements as meaningful tools to communicate with their audiences. There is, however, still a lot of misunderstanding as to how use interactive storytelling and choice-based tools in a meaningful way. This talk is meant to close the gap between independent game designers and theatre/film artists and will discuss tips and tricks to use interactivity in a meaningful way to stimulate audience participation and aid in bringing relevant themes and stories closer to live performance audiences and moviegoers.

WATCH

07:00 pm - Freeplay ZONE: Night Market Party

Location: Online / Freeplay ZONE

Come and chill in the brand new 2021 Freeplay ZONE! Cosy vibes all around!

ATTEND

Sunday 13 June

11:00 am - The Importance of Hobbies // Amy Louise Doherty

Duration: 30m (11:00 am – 11:30 am)

Your interests can make your games better.

This talk explores the value of hobbies and communities that not only give you a break, or challenge your comfort, but improve creative expression and processes. From architectural design inspiration, to discipline when learning, the things we enjoy or are curious about away from work can have a profound effect on what we do and how we do it. Especially when transitioning from other industries into game design.

Hobbies changed everything, Amy Louise Doherty discovered when she returned home to Perth from working in film and TV in Canada to a much smaller industry. Starting again from square one to becoming agile to winning funding grants to develop the VR experience GHOST CAM, was a journey. A journey into an emerging industry that required learning completely new skills, reaching out to strangers and building a community, resourcefulness, patience and comfort in discomfort. All boosted by taking the time to explore interests in dancing, art, reconnecting with childhood obsessions and more.

WATCH

12:30 pm - Rise From Your Grave - Another Shot at Games // Mitch McCausland

Duration: 30m (12:30 pm – 1:00 pm)

Getting work in the games industry can be like shooting fish in a barrel, especially if you wish to enter it later on in your career. As someone who had been trying to do just that for a decade, Mitch will share some advice and observations regarding making the switch to working in games down under including:

  • Study – pros and cons of universities, private colleges and self driven teaching.
  • Know your role – finding how your set of skills translates into a paying position.
  • Working in parallel – growing professionally through related and even unrelated industries.
  • Getting involved – how being active in the game dev community gives you purpose.
  • Phoenix down – coping and recovering from unforeseen layoffs.
  • Changing focus – how working on yourself outside of games will help your career in the long run.
  • Taking the L – how to cope with unsuccessful job applications and career setbacks.

Rise From Your Grave is intended for those who wish to switch careers into games, those who have taken a sabbatical from the industry, or who wish to turn their hobby into a living.

WATCH

02:00 pm - How To Build A Games Community For Everyone Else // Brendan Keogh & Erika Verkaaik

Duration: 30m (2:00 pm – 2:30 pm)

The Squiggly River Game Collective was formed in 2017 as an alternative home for Brisbane’s hobbyist and amateur gamemakers. While Brisbane has long had a vibrant and friendly videogame industry, a gap was identified for those gamemakers more interested in informal, creativeexperimentation than producing commercial products. In the years since, Squiggly River has grown into a diverse and inclusive community of “games, playful arts things, and the people who make and play them”.

In this talk, co-organisers Erika and Brendan will detail the short history of Squiggly River, why it was needed, how it has grown, and the challenges that have been overcome. Further, they will reflect on why it is important for a locale to not simply have one gamemaking community for everyone, but alternative and overlapping communities to serve the needs of different gamemakers.

Attendees will gain insights into how they too can develop and sustain their own alternative gamemaking communities, and will reflect on the differences between making a community for everyone versus making a community for anyone.

WATCH

04:00 pm - Freeplay 2021 Closing Keynote // Zedeck Siew

Duration: 1h (4:00 pm – 5:00 pm)

Zedeck Siew is a writer, translator and designer based in Port Dickson. His prose fiction and RPG work has been published in Malaysia, the UK, and the USA. With visual artist Sharon Chin, he wrote the illustrated bestiary / herbiary “Creatures of Near Kingdoms”. With artist-designer Mun Kao, he co-designed political-party-simulator cardgame “POLITIKO”, and co-creates the RPG zine series “A Thousand Thousand Islands”. He thinks a lot about language, belonging, and ghosts.

WATCH

Postponed Events

07:30 pm - Freeplay 2021 Digital Awards Ceremony *RESCHEDULED*

Date: Sunday 27 June, 2021

Location: Online / Freeplay ZONE

Join us for one of the most exciting events of the festival, the Freeplay Digital Awards Ceremony. The Freeplay Awards have been a long-standing cornerstone of the festival and the Australian independent games community, celebrating new and emerging voices, creative talent, and bold experimental ideas coming out of Australia and New Zealand. On Sunday night, we celebrate Freeplay 2021 with MC Jonothan Rubock, and announce the winners of the 2021 Freeplay Awards! Ten games, ten awards.

WATCH

02:00 pm - EVENT: Street Tape Games (Session 1) *RESCHEDULED*

Date: Saturday 10 July, 2021

Duration: 1hr 30m (2:00 pm – 3:30 pm)

Location: Queensbridge Square, Southbank

Come along and play some of your beloved street and playground games redesigned with social distancing!

A direct response to COVID-19, Street Tape Games is a temporary installation that allows the public to play a series of street and playground games that have been redesigned with social distancing in mind. Using colourful social-distancing tapes to create playful markings on the ground, Street Tape Games is about encouraging the community to come out and play again after lockdown.

This event may be rescheduled based on weather conditions and latest COVID-19 restrictions in Melbourne. Registered participants will be notified before the event if there are any changes.

Registration is free but essential, as spots are limited.

For more information, visit the Street Tape Games website: https://streettape.games

Street Tape Games is supported by the City of Melbourne Arts Grants.
Created by artist duo Helen Kwok & Chad Toprak.

REGISTER

04:00 pm - EVENT: Street Tape Games (Session 2) *RESCHEDULED*

Date: Saturday 10 July, 2021

Duration: 1hr 30m (4:00 pm – 5:30 pm)

Location: Queensbridge Square, Southbank

Come along and play some of your beloved street and playground games redesigned with social distancing!

A direct response to COVID-19, Street Tape Games is a temporary installation that allows the public to play a series of street and playground games that have been redesigned with social distancing in mind. Using colourful social-distancing tapes to create playful markings on the ground, Street Tape Games is about encouraging the community to come out and play again after lockdown.

This event may be rescheduled based on weather conditions and latest COVID-19 restrictions in Melbourne. Registered participants will be notified before the event if there are any changes.

Registration is free but essential, as spots are limited.

For more information, visit the Street Tape Games website: https://streettape.games

Street Tape Games is supported by the City of Melbourne Arts Grants.
Created by artist duo Helen Kwok & Chad Toprak.

REGISTER

07:30 pm - EVENT: Sound Byte *POSTPONED*

Date: TBC

Location: Skydeck @ The Space Dance & Arts Centre, Prahran – (doors open 7:00 pm)

Artists: Sinister Creative

Cost: $25 (single ticket) / $20 (two or more tickets)

Sound Byte is Freeplay’s Friday night event, hosted by Sinister Creative. A celebration of Australian videogame music, featuring acoustic performances from Feather, Novena, Untitled Goose Game, and more. During interval, there will also be an exhibit of upcoming and recent Australian independent videogames that you can try out while grabbing a byte to eat.

BUY TICKETS

07:00 pm - EVENT: Freeplay ✕ Hovergarden: Night Market Party *POSTPONED*

Date: TBC

Location: Siteworks, Brunswick

Cost: FREE

Freeplay and Hovergarden team up once again to present a magical night full of videogames, installation art, chill music, and more! Come and see a fantastic selection of local and international videogames! Also joining us for the evening is Voiceworks, with the launch of their latest issue. Cosy vibes all around!

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Freeplay acknowledges the Wurundjeri & Boon Wurrung 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 and present, 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.