Freeplay 2021: June 8–13
Freeplay is the world’s longest-running independent games festival, located in Melbourne, Australia.
Established in 2004, the festival embraces the fringes, spotlights grassroots artists and game makers, and acts as a response to and critique of the status quo. For over 17 years, Freeplay has been exploring the vital margins of independent, alternative, and experimental games culture. The festival continues to champion artistic exploration and experimentation in games and play, and positions game making as arts practice.
Join us in June 2021 for a 6-day festival filled with online talks, panels, live music gigs, exhibitions, and more!
Our 2021 Freeplay Festival Team
Chad Toprak (Artistic Director) is an experimental game designer, and independent curator, best known for his curatorial work with Hovergarden, Melbourne’s videogame curatorial duo, and the Contours exhibition, which highlights emerging contemporary Australian games that sit at the fringes of the medium. He is a first generation Turkish Muslim immigrant, and was was named in Develop Pacific’s inaugural 30 Under Thirty list for 2018, GamesIndustry.Biz’s Game Changers 100 in 2020, and was a recipient of the 2014 IGDA Scholars program, the 2020 Game Devs of Color scholarship, and a 2021 Australian Game Developers Award. He has served as artistic director of Freeplay since 2017.
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, dualcyon, the experimental Leap Motion & VR puzzle game for two, and This Is Not A VR Game, an audio-only VR performance. He currently works as an artist duo with his partner Helen Kwok.
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, & Journey to the Centre of the Partyzone.
Jini Maxwell (Festival Producer) is a writer and arts worker based in Narrm. They are a staff writer for Artshub & Screenhub, teach creative writing at RMIT University, and previously co-directed National Young Writers Festival. They aim to make and facilitate sincere, playful, challenging work.
Marigold Bartlett (Visual Art Lead) currently works in the games industry as a freelance consultant and illustrator, as well as an art director on upcoming game, Wayward Strand. She is passionate about art and media studies, as well as history and story in games spaces. She has a background in alternative comic art, 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, and occasionally teaches game design students at RMIT.
Pritika Sachdev (Social Media Coordinator) is a social media specialist with a proven track record of connecting, collaborating, and nurturing online communities. Focused on how stories can connect the client and audience, she’s constantly looking for new ways to challenge herself within various ethical industries.
Having a background in games design, Pritika is a big supporter of the Melbourne’s local videogames and arts scene. She co-produced multiple grassroots art exhibitions and is the Social Coordinator for the Freeplay Independent Games Festival. She continued to support the videogames industry through her work with CheckPoint, and advocated for healthy workplaces and mental health awareness.
When she finally manages to tear herself away from her phone, Pritika can usually be found cooking up a storm or tending to her plants.
Jason Imms (Chair of the Freeplay Awards) is a founder and board member of Tasmanian Game Makers, Director of Quality Assurance at Mighty Kingdom, and formerly a games and technology journalist for a wide range of Australian and US publications (GameSpot, Giant Bomb, Kill Screen, Hyper Magazine, PC PowerPlay, and more), and managing director of The Machine QA. His varied career and experience in the Australian games scene has led to him sitting on the Film Victoria digital media assessment panel, and the Tasmanian Ministerial Arts and Cultural Advisory Council.
Jason is a father of five, a husband to one, and a firm believer in the power of video games as art, entertainment, education, and for social change.
Creatrix Tiara (Volunteer Manager) writes, produces, and performs work based around identity, liminality, and community, particularly through Tiara’s experiences as a queer immigrant gender-nonconforming femme of colour with mental health issues. Tiara has used games to explore immigration: making Here’s Your Fuckin’ Papers, a puzzle-based parody of Papers Please, and What The @#(?@ Do They Need Now?, about the US Travel Ban, as well as speaking at Return to Escape from Woomera about immigration, games, and art. Tiara is 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. Tiara’s most recent project is Queer Lady Magician, intersecting stage magic, social justice, and autobiographical storytelling.
Terry Burdak (Sponsorship Manager) is a graphic designer, game developer and the creative director of Paper House. He has worked in the games industry for 6 years, since graduating at RMIT in 2015. During this time, he released award-winning Paperbark, worked as QA & Production Assistant at LoG, Community and Studio Manger at 2pt, Business Development Manager for the GDAA and Event Manager for GCAP . He is an active member and advocate of the local games industry and has been involved in numerous events, conferences and community events (Changes, DiGRA, VATE, Girl Geek Academy, MIGW Squiggle).
Currently he is doing Creative Stuff for local developers and working on Wood & Weather, a silly game about climate change. He also likes trees and the weather.
Cecile Richard (Associate Producer – Freeplay ZONE) is a graphic designer, zine maker and game designer living in Melbourne whose artistic work often revolves around the themes of memory, connection and belonging. Cecile’s most well-known works include award-winning short Bitsy games novena, ENDLESS SCROLL, and UNDER A STAR CALLED SUN.
Jae Stuart (Associate Producer – Freeplay ZONE) is a designer and programmer drawn to narrative games. Projects they’ve worked on have been shown at A MAZE., GDC, SXSW, and nominated for awards at Freeplay and Play By Play. In 2020 they collaborated with Cecile Richard on the online social spaces the Freeplay ZONE and Parallels ZONE for Freeplay and a ZONE for the Researching Game-making Workshop. Inspired by art game events they worked with Sydney gamedevs to organise a popup games exhibition, Serenade, at the very beginning of 2020.
Freeplay's 2023 leadership team: Mads Mackenzie (front left), Louie Roots (front centre) and Creatrix Tiara (front right). Freeplay welcomes Mads Mackenzie and Louie Roots as our new co-directors – and Creatrix Tiara as our first Awards Lead. Next year is...
Hello there, Freeplay friends! As some of you may know, we’re taking some time this year to think about how we do Freeplay. A few months ago, we said goodbye to artistic director Chad Toprak, and we have not yet filled the...
Following an all too familiar trend, it can be confirmed today that popular Melbourne games showcase venue, the Freeplay ZONE, will be closing its doors due to noise complaints made by residents of the recently built apartment block. "We recently came on to look after...
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.