Freeplay 2021 Speakers

Keynote Speakers


D. Squinkifer, aka Squinky (they/them), 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.

Session: Freeplay 2021 Opening Keynote

Zedeck Siew

Zedeck Siew (he/him) 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.

Session: Freeplay 2021 Closing Keynote

Festival Speakers

Alistair Aitcheson

Alistair Aitcheson (he/him) is an indie developer who specialises in playful installations, custom-made game hardware, and interactive performances. He sees his games as a springboard for real-world social interaction, and loves to encourage players to bend rules and make the technology their own. Alistair is the creator and host of the stage show The Incredible Playable Show. His work has been nominated for awards at A MAZE and Alt.Ctrl.GDC, and won awards at the IndieCade Festival in 2015 and 2017.

Session: The Book Ritual – Interactive Performance

Dakoda Barker

Dakoda (he/him) is a writer, editor, teacher, and designer. He grew up on Gubbi Gubbi country but now resides in Naarm on Wurundjeri country. He is a director and consultant for Represent Me, a charity committed to improving intersectionality in games spaces. His doctorate, The Mighty Spoon, explores depictions of chronic health conditions in videogames and includes in its creative component the award-winning microgame ‘Rise’. He loves naps.

Session: Indigenising Games: A Yarn Between Mob and Whānau

Rusaila Bazlamit

Rusaila (she/her) is a digital designer, an experimental artist, and an academic. She has lectured in design, digital and interactive media in Australia and Jordan, and has exhibited several digital and video art projects, interactive installations, worldwide. Rusaila is the founder of Lab Tajribi | Experimental Expressions and holds a PhD in Design (2019) from Curtin University, Australia. Her interests are centered in design activism, social justice, and representations of the misrepresented.

Session: Game Engines in Activist Spatial Experiences

Lisa Blakie

Lisa (Kai Tahu and Waitaha, she/her) is an award winning Narrative Designer and the Community Director for mobile free-to-play developer Runaway Play and Atawhai Interactive. Prior to working in the games industry she wrote an honours dissertation about indigenous storytelling in video games.

Lisa is also a writer, an international speaker, a community organiser, 2020 Te Maunga Kai Kapua Teina award recipient, 20Twenties young alumni awards and has served on the NZ Game Developers Association Board.

Session: Indigenising Games: A Yarn Between Mob and Whānau

Jerry Chan

Jerry Chan (He/Him) is the co-founder of the Zeitgeist Studio. He is a Hong Kong drawing and animation artist based in New York. He exhibited his works in different countries, including Ethan Cohan Gallery (New York) and Domatio (Greece). He also curated a few group exhibitions concerning experimental comics with the support from Hong Kong Arts Development Council.

Session: Power of Game and Art to Resist Power

Michelle Chen

Michelle Chen (she/her) is game developer with more than 10 years experience in programming, design and production. She is a 100 Future Talent and Xbox Women in Gaming Game Changer. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Design, developing video games about mental health at RMIT in Australia.

Session: MENTAL Jam

Amy Louise Doherty

Amy Louise Doherty (she/her) is an experienced writer, director, VR developer and Founder of creative studio ARCH REBELS. A winner of Screenwest’s Interactive Pilot fund, and the Trailblazer Award from the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation in 2019, Amy is currently developing GHOST CAM, a spooky VR experience. Her narrative work has been featured internationally in the UK and Canada on TV shows, short films, film and arts festivals, theatre, and as Curator for TEDx.

Session: The Importance of Hobbies

Naphtali Faulkner

Naphtali Faulkner (he/him) is a Ngāi Te Rangi designer. His Whānau are Beazley and Faulkner. His works look at Indigenous futurism using Respectful Design as a foundation.

Session: Indigenising Games: A Yarn Between Mob and Whānau

Andrew Gleeson

Andrew Gleeson (he/him) is a self-taught videogame developer and pixel artist living in Melbourne. From a young age he has worked on commercially-successful titles, lectured at RMIT, and occasionally releases small games for fun. He uses GameMaker Studio for all his current projects. You are likely to spot him wearing a striped shirt and a beanie, yelling about crypto.

Session: A Crypto Christmas Carol

Jack Hart

Jack (they/them) is a game designer, writer, and developer. They make games that are interested in who we are as players, what we expect when we come to games and how to distort those expectations. They make Sad games, Bad games, and Whale games. Their current project A Museum of Self & Space is a game about our inner demons and how they’re reflected in the world around us. You can find more information at

Session: Creating Games With The Parasocial In Mind

Grant Howitt

Grant Howitt (he/him) is a games designer and publisher that lives in East London. He has written entirely too many roleplaying games, including but not limited to: Honey Heist, Crash Pandas, One Last Job, the 2016 Paranoia remake, Tartarus Gate, Goblin Quest, Spire and Heart. He firmly believes that the best way to write a comedy game is not to put any jokes in the rules.

Session: Is This A Joke/Game to You?: Micro RPGs as Comedy

Narayana Johnson

Narayana (he/him) is a performing artist and composer who goes under ‘River Boy’. His music draws extensively on his childhood and teenage years spent roaming creaks, forests and mountains in the Northern Rivers, NSW. He is currently composing for local indie games as well as recording and performing music in Melbourne supporting artists like Moju.

Session: Games Gig (Online)

Brendan Keogh

Brendan Keogh (he/him) is a researcher at Queensland University of Technology in the Digital Media Research Centre, and the co-organiser of the Squiggly River Game Collective. He has been active in the Australian gamemaking community for over a decade as a critic, educator, researcher, and amateur gamemaker. He is the author of A Play of Bodies: How We Perceive Videogames; Killing is Harmless; and The Unity Game Engine and the Circuits of Cultural Software (co-authored with Benjamin Nicoll)

Session: How To Build A Games Community For Everyone Else

Jacob Leaney

Jacob (he/him) is an indie game dev and synth-pop artist/songwriter under the moniker Monster Mansion. He develops games based on the music he writes/releases – most recently the halloween themed rhythm game ‘Video World’ which received ‘The Guest Plate’ award at the 2021 NZ Games Fest. Jacob has previously worked as an audio engineer at the acclaimed Sing Sing Studios and been a freelance game designer.

Session: Games Gig: Aligning Indie Music with Indie Games

Session: Games Gig (Online)

Aaron Lim

Aaron Lim (he/him) is a designer of tabletop games based in Malaysia. His work ranges from board and card games to story games and tabletop RPGs. He also occasionally posts “joke games” on Twitter like Baby’s First RPG and the GOLF system that end up becoming “real games” on

Session: Games as Poetry, Poetry as Play

Session: Is This A Joke/Game to You?: Micro RPGs as Comedy

Toby Mach

Toby (Toby) is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, producer, and sound designer who works under the pseudonym Winged Souls. Toby makes music for a variety of games and films, the highlight so far being the Soda Dungeon series. In addition to playing keyboard and arranging anime music for the cover band Hoka no Tea Time, Toby also runs a YouTube channel publishing game music piano arrangements, covers, and originals.

Session: Press Start-Up! Launching a Live Game Music Business During a Pandemic

Gemma Mahadeo

Gemma (they/them) is a poet and sometime-musician from the UK based in Naarm. They have had work published both in print and online, nationally and internationally, and in 2020 made a videogame with award-winning game designer Ian MacLarty which was nominated for ‘Best Experimental Game’ and ‘Best Micro Game’, the former of which was won. In 2020 and 2021, they have largely worked on digital commissions which audiences can interact with, one being ‘Invisible Illness’ for the City of Darebin. They wish they had more time to write videogame ekphrastic poetry. Currently, they are avoiding fine-tuning their first full-length poetry manuscript, by occupying themselves with cats, tea, and beer. They don’t like people who reject them on the basis of their chronic illnesses.

Session: Games as Poetry, Poetry as Play

Paul Matijevic

Paul “Ettin” Matijevic (he/him) is a tabletop game designer based in Sydney. He’s the designer of Breakfast Cult, Retrocausality and the recently released Hard Wired Island. He also made Oh Dang! Bigfoot Stole My Car With My Friend’s Birthday Present Inside, and other comedic cryptid games.

Session: Is This A Joke/Game to You?: Micro RPGs as Comedy

Mitch McCausland

Mitch McCausland (he/him) is a Sydney-based games producer, currently working at Blowfish Studios as an Assistant Publishing Producer. Outside of work he volunteers his time with the Sydney chapter of IGDA as well as serving as an organiser for Game Workers Unite Australia. Prior to working at Blowfish, Mitch worked for major advertising agencies, slot gaming companies and even his hometown arcade.

Session: Rise From Your Grave – Another Shot at Games

Maria Mison

Maria Mison (she/they) is a piece of queer filipina sunshine from a little surftown who loves anything slice-of-life, cathartically vulnerable, everyday lyric magick performance dream game stuff. She’s authored games like “Arch Angel Dating Simulator” and the classic lyric game “I EAT MANTRAS FOR BREAKFAST” and has guest written, and done layout for projects like “Brinkwood” & “Necronautilus”. Outside of TTRPG she also works as a somatics facilitator, performance artist, director, video game designer and podcaster. See more of her work at , or

Session: Games as Poetry, Poetry as Play


Nana (they/she) is a writer whose original games, poems and short stories have been platformed both in Malaysia and internationally. They mainly perform spoken word poetry and also has experience on stage and screen as a host, actor and director. In addition to publishing zines featuring original writings and artworks, they also taught drama in Malaysia and Brunei. Nana finished the Malaysia National Poetry Slam 2018 at Georgetown Literary Festival as a runner-up and was invited again as a speaker in 2019.

Session: Games as Poetry, Poetry as Play

Xuan Nguyen

Xuan Nguyen || FEYXUAN (they/them) is a disabled fey orchestral music composer, writer-poet, and illustrator-designer. Their recent projects have involved the solo development of aesthetic interactive fiction games exploring the nuances not exclusive to the following: power, trauma, madness, nonbinariness, divinity, and monstrosity. Their works include the libretto (opera script), THE FAIRIES SING EACH TO EACH (Flower Press) and the visual novels, LIAR LIONNESS (Feb 2021) and OCHITSUBAKI (Winter 2021).

Session: Mad Poetics in Indie Games

Jedidjah Julia Noomen

Jedidjah Julia Noomen (she/her) is a writer, narrative designer and (voice) director. After starting out in theatre, film and tv she moved via interactive and immersive theatre into digital games. Next to writing several videogame titles, she also develops multidisciplinary game-related projects and coaches projects on interactivity and branching storylines. She’s also an advisor for the Flemish Gamefund, curator for the Imagine Filmfestival, co-host of the Nirvana Podcast and an experienced improv-actor.

Session: Meaningful Choices: Gameplay in Theatre and Film

Cecile Richard

Cecile Richard (they/them) 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.

Session: Games as Poetry, Poetry as Play

Session: Meet Me in the Firepit

Mateja Simovic

Mateja Simovic (he/him) is an organiser for Game Workers Unite Australia and a producer for Australia’s first game dev co-op, Inflorescent Games Co-op. He’s written about games, movies and geek media over the years for Capsule Computers. His other projects involve gathering together resources for game workers to form co-operative game studios in Australia and lobbying governments for more support for the industry.

Session: Australian Game Dev Co-ops – A Fireside chat

Adira Slattery

Adira Slattery (she/her) is a trans Jewish game designer, poet, and zinester based in the Chicagoland area. Her work spans comedy, horror, and intimacy while covering topics like queer joy, futility, and hope. Her more comedic games include ANTological Theory, The Wise Men of Chelm, and BIRD FIGHT SIMULATOR 2009.

Session: Is This A Joke/Game to You?: Micro RPGs as Comedy

Jae Stuart

Jae Stuart (they/them) 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.

Session: Meet Me in the Firepit

Mel Taylor

Mel (she/her) is a narrative/game designer and director of Mellow Games, currently working on the narrative platformer Blueberry. Most recently, Mel worked on the narrative design and writing for survival adventure Windbound by 5Lives Studios in Brisbane. In 2014, she co-founded the German games studio Osmotic Studios and co-created Orwell, an award-winning data privacy thriller. She also worked as a lecturer in Game Design and in Game Art.

Session: Pieces of Me: Making Personal Games

Chad Toprak

Chad Toprak (he/him) is an independent curator and award-winning experimental game designer. He is a first generation Turkish Muslim immigrant. Chad is the director of Freeplay, ½ of videogame collective Hovergarden, and curator of the Contours exhibition. He was named in Develop Pacific’s inaugural 30 Under Thirty list for 2018,’s 100 Game Changers list, and was a recipient of the 2014 IGDA Scholars program and the 2020 Game Devs of Color scholarship.

Session: Welcome to Freeplay 2021

Jonathon Tree

Jonathon (he/him) is a composer, a game developer, and a doomscroller. When he isn’t filtering and mangling sounds into unrecognisable messes, he’s likely hooting and hollering at men in shorts running around with a ball. After spending the last few years in the tech world, he left in the hope of living a life free of “X-As-A-Service” and blockchain business models. In 2021 he was cursed by an evil warlock to have to read about cryptocurrency in the news constantly for the foreseeable future.

Session: A Crypto Christmas Carol

Erika Verkaaik

Erika Verkaaik (they/them) is an award-winning game designer. They dabble in both digital and analogue games and like to make games about connection, exploration and discovery. They are passionate about small, alternative games and the communities that make them. In their spare time, they organise and run a local game dev meetup called Squiggly River. They are also on the board for Making Space.

Session: How To Build A Games Community For Everyone Else

Allison Walker

Allison Walker (she/her) is a Naarm based, all around audio nerd for games and live events. She can be found in a variety of environments and in a variety of forms: She is a self taught composer, live-coder, sound engineer, games designer, sound designer, drummer, workshop facilitator, and classically trained pianist. Most of her free time is spent thinking about birds and reading comics.

Session: Games Gig: Aligning Indie Music with Indie Games

Session: Games Gig (Online)

Maize Wallin

Maize Wallin (they/them) is a Melbourne based composer, sound designer, and audio programmer working across indie games and big budget AAA. Highlights from Maize’s extensive folio include God Fall, Receiver 2, Wayward Strand, and Cosmic Express, as well as their solo experimental audio game works.

Session: Games Gig: Aligning Indie Music with Indie Games

Session: Games Gig (Online)

Session: Australian Game Dev Co-ops – A Fireside chat

Phoebe Watson

Phoebe (she/her) is a proud Yarrer Gunditj woman from the Maar Nation in South West Victoria. Phoebe graduated from RMIT in 2020 with a bachelors degree in Game Design. During her studies she has been working as a Indigenous Game Designer and Cultural Consultant at DragonBear Studios on their first title Innchanted. Since graduating she has continued to work in the games industry doing writing, game design and consultations.

Session: Indigenising Games: A Yarn between Mob and Whānau

Mandy Wong

Mandy Wong (she/her) is the co-founder of the Zeitgeist Studio. She is a New York-based Hong Kong digital and performance artist. Her artworks were exhibited in various places, such as Art Omi (New York), Kunstquartier Bethanien (Berlin), Videotage (Hong Kong), and Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre.

Session: Power of Game and Art to Resist Power

Nicholas Young

Nick (he/him) is an internationally-acclaimed, award-winning pianist who has won prizes at top competitions including the Australian National Piano Award, ABC Young Performers Awards, and many more. He regularly presents solo and chamber music recitals across Australia in a variety of instrumental collaborations as well as being a prolific educator. Nick is moved by the power of music in shaping video game experiences as well as the ability of games to draw audiences into the world of music, to which end he founded Sinister Creative, a live game music event business based in Melbourne.

Session: Press Start-Up! Launching a Live Game Music Business During a Pandemic

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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.