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.