New appointments for Freeplay heading into our 2014 festival!


Image credit: Izzy Gramp. From left to right: Trent Kusters, Jess Kilby, and Dan Golding

Image credit: Izzy Gramp. From left to right: Trent Kusters, Jess Kilby, and Dan Golding


We’re really excited to announce today that we’ve assembled a new team for our 2014 festival. We’ve got journalist and academic Dan Golding on as our new director, and two new board appointments, in the guise of artist, writer and game designer Jess Kilby (of Pop Up Playground fame), and designer Trent Kusters (of League of Geeks fame). You can follow Trent, Jess, and Dan on twitter, as well, of course as the festival.

We’ve got lots more exciting announcements about the festival to come, so keep an eye out for more news!

Our full press release follows below.


Big Screen Gaming returns to Fed Square

You may remember our Indie Allsorts program, which ran at Federation Square earlier this year and proved a hit with both dedicated gamers and curious passers-by. Well, Freeplay will return to the square tomorrow with some holiday-themed gaming fun, as a part of Fed Square’s Spirit of the Square program.

For the duration of December, you’ll find us playing the best of the indie gaming world’s titles on the big screen, alongside entertaining physical games amidst the pine trees. Starting tomorrow, we’ll be there each Monday evening from 5pm to 9pm – we hope to see you there!

In Defense of Personal Games – a list

Here’s a list of the games that our keynote Erin Robinson mentioned in her speech. Huge thanks to Adele Walsh, who uploaded the list originally. Hopefully we’ll have a recording available soon for those who weren’t able to make it to the conference!

The Darkness

The Light

Self Expression

Erin Robinson

Ticket FAQ

We here at Freeplay have received a few questions about tickets in the lead-up to this weekend’s conference. Be confused no more! We present: our Ticket FAQ!

Do I need to bring a physical copy of my ticket, or have you got a door list?

We’ll have a door list, though a copy of your ticket on paper or on your smartphone would be appreciated to help speed up the registration process and prevent queues in the morning.

When do online ticket sales close?

We’ll be closing online ticket sales in the very early morning hours of 28 September.

I didn’t receive an email confirmation of my ticket – can you check that the payment went through?

Sure – email and I’ll be happy to resend it to the email address of your choice.

I can’t make it to the conference any more. Is it possible to get a refund?

Yep – email

I’m impulsive, and/or I can’t decide yet whether to brave the footy crowds or not. Can I just rock up and buy a ticket on the Saturday or Sunday morning of the conference?

You can, provided we still have tickets available. These door tickets will cost the same price as those of our online ticket sales, however we can only take cash purchases – we do not have EFTPOS facilities available, unfortunately.

I heard something about parties on both Saturday and Sunday. If I buy a single-day pass, do I get to attend both parties?

We believe that partying should not be restricted, so yes, you may attend parties on either night. Your single-day pass is still only valid for either Saturday or Sunday, though!

I can’t make it to the conference. Can I still crash the party?

Due to limited space, we’re limiting party access to ticket holders only. Thankfully, you can buy a special party ticket on the door for $15. Bring cash, please – we don’t have any EFTPOS facilities.

Where are the parties, anyway?

Saturday night’s party is held at the RMIT Design Hub’s rooftop. Sunday night’s party is the Freeplay Awards ceremony, hosted by Dave Callan and held at Bella Union. There will be volunteer guides to direct you each evening.

Any other queries can be sent to We look forward to welcoming you this weekend!

From the Freeplay Board – Anna Burkey

Welcome to this series of blog posts by the board members of the Freeplay Independent Games Festival. Newest board member and arts aficionado Anna Burkey tells us about her relationship with games, as well as the very first game she ever designed. (Hint: I’d eat it.)

I have always loved games: board games, arcades, consoles, PC games – I’ve never particularly drawn distinctions. What I’m looking for is the puzzle, and if I’m honest, the competition, but I had never much considered that they could change my way of thinking about the world, or how important they are to our social cultures.

I even made up my own arcade game in the school playground, two of us drawing out the devilishly challenging journey as a piece of fruit made its way through a primary-coloured world, beset by Satanic banana peels. I’m not sure it would have been much of a hit.

I lost my way with games for a while, as they came to mean endless rounds of Monopoly, or bland first-person shooters. Thanks to friends in Edinburgh, I rediscovered tabletop gaming, and was gleefully overwhelmed at All The Games and the many different worlds they could portray.

I’d heard great things of Freeplay from overseas, and felt like maybe there was a space that would be able to show me more of these worlds, and a friendly, open community that would help me find my way back in. My first Freeplay, just last year, did not disappoint, and I’ve been exploring the independent games scene in Australia ever since.

This year’s program is just as exciting to me, and over the next week I’m looking forward to listening and discussing how we make interesting games, and use them to tell new stories. You’ve bought your ticket already, right? Then I’ll see you there. Let’s talk.

From the Freeplay Board – Paul Gurney

Welcome to this series of blog posts by the board members of the Freeplay Independent Games Festival. Today, treasurer Paul Gurney tells us how games and art are quite similar to sport. No, really.

Some of you probably know that Freeplay began life as part of the 2004 Next Wave Festival, as designed by the then-Artistic Director, Marcus Westbury. In 2004, Marcus described Freeplay’s program as:

“…emerging from and bringing together several existing communities that span the personal projects of professional developers, academics, animators, new media practitioners, students from every state in Australia, and a blossoming community of DIY hobbyists… The aim of the event is to bring together these communities in a forum that is… thematically relevant and engaged with their culture.”

My involvement with Freeplay began in 2009 through my work with Next Wave. Next Wave is an artist development and Festival organisation that works with emerging independent artists to build skills and present ambitious projects across all art forms. We focus equally on process, the end product, and future opportunities. Despite expanding into a Festival in its own right, Freeplay has keep Marcus’ ideas in mind. The organisational memory has grown the original concept to interrogate the culture of games through new perspectives and engaging formats.

When I joined the Freeplay board, I have to say that my experience as a ‘gamer’ was pretty limited. FIFA was pretty much it… Okay, so maybe a few flight simulators too (yaw!). But first-person shooters? Too stressful. Quests? Too impatient. In fact, my engagement with games culture is much closer aligned to sport, which I actually think is a lot like art. True fact. Sport is basically focused on an individuals ‘performance’ in an ‘audience’-based or ‘participatory’ event. The same definition could be applied to many performance or visual based art forms, or for that matter, games too.

Similarly to art, the form which a game takes is not always its most important aspect. It is in fact the ideas, process or context of an artwork that gives it its meaning. And as my involvement with Freeplay has continued, I now appreciate that my idea of a games ‘form’ was pretty limited. Games don’t always require huge resources or elaborate technology, and we engage with games in many aspects of our everyday lives, almost subconsciously. It is this idea, that games are part of our culture, which drives Freeplay.

Freeplay is concerned with a holistic view of games, and by engaging with the independent sector specifically, the festival helps to grow a sustainable games industry in Australia. As much as the first Freeplay conference did, in 2013 we aim to nurture and develop the next generation of games culture in a national and international context. Freeplay aims to push social assumptions about games to achieve a dialogue that recognises it’s social as well as economic benefits.

This year’s Freeplay is designed by two new emerging voices in Australia’s games sector. Harry and Katie will add a new voice to the conversation about how we perceive, make, and play games in Australia.

Announcing: the finalists of the 2013 Freeplay Awards!

Whew! After a long, hard weekend of deliberations, Freeplay and its judges are finally pleased to unveil the finalists for each category of the 2013 Freeplay Awards. For the first time, the Awards focused purely on Australian talent, but this didn’t make the judges’ decisions any easier; we received over 70 submissions, and whittling the finalists down was difficult with so many absorbing games to choose from.

Nevertheless, we’re proud to present to you the full finalists list:

Puzzle Retreat

Visual Art
Puzzle Retreat
The Paper Fox

Audio Design


Technical Innovation
Time Surfer

Halfling Heist
Outside These City Walls
Time Fight

A description of each finalist can be found on our finalists page. The winners of each category, as well as the overall Best Game, will be announced at the Freeplay Awards ceremony hosted by Dave Callan on 29 September. Festival-goers will receive access to the ceremony as part of their conference ticket, though door tickets will also be available so that members of the general public can join us in honouring the year’s best and brightest independently-developed Australian games.

From the Freeplay Board – Cam Rogers

Welcome to this series of blog posts by the board members of the Freeplay Independent Games Festival. Today, we speak to board secretary Cam Rogers about what it means to enjoy games, especially in the context of an independent games festival.

I never used to see myself as a gamer. I spent my university years living with a guy who was particularly dedicated to the pursuit, and this largely formed my view of what a gamer was.

I used to walk past his room late at night, and the sounds of various body parts being explosively removed from torsos would gruesomely echo around his room, courtesy of whatever MMO had captured his attention that month. Normally it was something like Unreal Tournament, and this kind of thing didn’t interest me in the slightest.

I studied film production at uni and I always viewed games culture as something of a distant cousin to that of film. I never really saw myself as part of the culture of games, but I always enjoyed hanging out with gamers and the conversation that went part and parcel with it. Playing Championship Manager was about hanging out with friends, and playing GTA was as much about listening to Hans Oberlander on SF-UR for me as it was about carjacking Blista Compacts. My interaction with the actual screen was pretty limited, happy as I was to engage with the game itself second hand when hanging out with friends.

Accordingly, I never identified as a gamer. I became actively involved in the Melbourne indie games scene in about 2008-2009. It is fair to say that this changed my whole outlook on what ‘games culture’ was. Around that time I met some amazingly dedicated people working in the area who inspired me. I soon found myself hooked on various games, including the absolute time sink Tiny Tower, and the platformer Canabalt. Games like this made me think about what games were, what they could be, and what the Average Joe’s relationship to games actually was. Did people even realise they were playing games? Does the guy in a suit on the tram playing Words with Friends identify as a gamer? I wouldn’t have thought so. My nine-year-old nephew certainly doesn’t identify as anything. He is just happy seeing Barry Steakfries avoid getting electrocuted.

So, I have asked myself, what is my relationship to games? What is the archetype of a person who plays games? I soon realised that such a person doesn’t exist. When you think about the sheer scope of the games that are on offer, any such conceptions are quickly abandoned. It turned out that I had been barking up the wrong tree. I learned that I am primarily into casual games. Right now for example, I’m playing Neven Mrgan and James Moore’s Blackbar and I am most of the way through the home-grown Voxel Agents’ game Puzzle Retreat. But was my relationship to gaming in my youth any less valid because I didn’t see myself as someone who actively played? I certainly spent a lot of time thinking about games and hanging out with those who did, and I think that is definitely engaging in games culture.

I have come to understand that there is no wrong or right way to be a part of games culture. How you engage with it is up to you. My idea of what I considered a ‘gamer’ was just one snapshot of what is a very broad spectrum. The culture is out there, and how you fit in as a part of that is a matter for the individual.

Which is, of course, what Freeplay is all about. Freeplay aims to explore games culture. It celebrates gaming for the sheer love of it – not just the development of games, but the gaming experience itself, and the relationships that are forged between those who embrace that culture. It doesn’t matter how you engage with it; it is the fact that you enjoy it that matters. I’m really looking forward to this year’s festival. I know Katie and Harry have been working very hard, and the program is looking great. Hopefully I meet a few people who introduce me to new games. I’m looking forward to getting hooked on something new.

From the Freeplay Board – Vanessa Toholka

Welcome to this series of blog posts by the board members of the Freeplay Independent Games Festival. Today, board member Vanessa Toholka discusses the role that Freeplay played in helping her realise games’ cultural significance.

“I’m not much of a gamer,” I used to say. I thought it was true. I was never particularly good at first person shooters, and was completely disinterested in fantasy sports teams. The games conversations I was familiar with focused on frags, kills, in-game strategy, and epic trash-talking.

The truth was, some of my earliest memories of using computers involved playing games. Flight Simulator, with its unreasonably complicated landing procedures. Test Drive, full of elite cars and improbably convincing illusions of movement along winding mountain roads. Nethack, an ASCII dungeon whose simple graphics belied a complexity of gameplay I’ve yet to see matched.

I developed my first game using Logo on an Apple IIe. It was a single-screen environment for a fish, and the light-bulb moment was leaving the drawn coral in a selected-state, so it wavered uncertainly as if underwater. The second game I made was a text-based adventure. I made a good start on an artificial intelligence script in BASIC, capable of handling simple conversations, to be part of a game I never completed.

I stopped coding games, but kept playing. Enjoying the permissible displays of aggression in Street Fighter and Tekken, the cheap scares in Doom and Wolfenstein 3D, the laughs in Commander Keen and the puzzles in Myst. I attended LAN parties, joined a clan of Team Fortress players, and still didn’t identify as a gamer. I’d dismissed games as trivial. They were one-dimensional experiences – fast food for those with hand-eye coordination to burn.

When I came across a Freeplay program years later, it was revelatory. As expected, there were developers hashing out the technical challenges of making computer games, and sharing hard-won skills. The conversations which really surprised me, were people discussing philosophical motivations, psychological concepts, user experience design, story-telling and reflecting on their broad influences. It was a type of games discourse, with sophisticated criticism and review, which I hadn’t encountered before. It made me realise how important games were on my path to becoming a developer.

Freeplay provides an important space for games to be recognised for excellence. For makers and players to raise expectations, and aspire to a breadth of styles, diversity of game play, and creative distinction. A permissive space to break gaming conventions and celebrate all kinds of playfulness.

Freeplay broadened my mind about games as cultural artefacts. Now I think of games more like novels – varying in style, purpose and quality. They can teach us, reward us, thrill us, and with any luck, the classics will remain with us for years.

From the Freeplay Board – Rob Pulham

Welcome to this series of blog posts by the board members of the Freeplay Independent Games Festival. Today, we’ve asked board member Rob Pulham to recount what put him on the path to being on the board of Australia’s biggest and longest-running independent games festival.

I don’t remember how young I was when I first started playing computer games. It was on a Commodore 64. Imagination was part of the experience and many games were, of necessity, simple – restricted in graphics, size, memory and sound. Yet many were also surprisingly deep. I spent many hours playing scrolling 2D platformers, text-based adventure games, sporting sims, campaign strategy games, flying, driving, racing and even sailing sims, and all kinds of categories in between.

As computers grew up, so did I. I moved to adventure games that actually used graphics (the Monkey Island series remains one of my all time favourites), more and more sophisticated real time strategy games (I have to admit to being an original Warcraft fan at this point), and games with ever increasing levels of “realism”. I even adopted consoles – somewhat belatedly, but with a passion that saw me happily pouring money into the coffers of every console maker at once.

I play games less these days than I used to, but my work in the field of technology law ensures I keep up to date with the latest trends in technology and computer, console or smart-device gaming.

With smartphones and portable devices of all descriptions, games of all types have been able to clearly hit the mainstream. This still presents many unexplored opportunities and we’re still working on different ways of interacting with these devices – giving game developers new tools and delivering them new audiences.

Games, to me, have traditionally been a form of entertainment and escape. But playing games, growing up with two siblings, also taught me how to share, cooperate, communicate, and think laterally. Games are not just “mindless fun”, they’re an important part of our culture.

I was lucky enough to be introduced to Freeplay several years ago by a work colleague, and have been on the Board since the Board’s inception. I’m proud to be involved and to help Freeplay foster and expand the gaming community.

Everyone has a different gaming story, and all our ideas together help those stories grow. So it’s with great excitement and anticipation that I look forward to our upcoming Festival under the new directorship of Katie and Harry and hope to see you there!