Freeplay Independent Games Festival announces new directors

Australia's Freeplay Independent Games Festival has announced the new leadership team set to carve out its future after a dormant year.
Freeplay Independent Games Festival Directors 2023

Australia’s Freeplay Independent Games Festival, touted as the world’s longest-running independent games festival, has announced two new directors, Mads Mackenzie and Louie Roots, as well as its first Awards Lead, Creatrix Tiara.

The announcement comes after the Melbourne-based festival took a year off in 2022 to regroup, following the departure of former director Chad Toprak, who has since moved onto Screen Australia as a Games Investment Manager. During this time, the festival was also the recipient of a significant amount of funding from Creative Victoria.

Read: Freeplay: Parallels and making games on your own terms

At the time of writing, it appears the Freeplay Festival will not be returning for 2023, however, the organisation has confirmed that Freeplay Parallels, an annual showcase of Australian games will run in 2023, as will the Freeplay Awards, which had previously coincided with the festival itself. Freeplay reportedly has ‘big things planned for 2024.’

The festival has historically been an event that focusses on promoting artistic and experimental independent game making, with talks from a slew of notable international game developers. The Freeplay Awards have also played a part in recognising exceptional games from Australia and New Zealand, which have then gone on to make enormous impacts overseas – games like Umurangi Generation, Framed, and Antichamber among them.

New co-director Mads Mackenzie (they/them) is currently a PhD in game studies at the University of Sydney’s Games and Play Lab. They’ve previously created games such as Inverness Nights and Catacomb Prince, and have been involved with the Pride at Play event, which ran in 2023.

Fellow co-director Louie Roots (he/him) is best known for operating Bar SK, formerly a Melbourne-based gallery bar that showcased small local games. He was also known for running several game installations, in Australia and around the world that famously featured bespoke controllers as input devices.

Creatrix Tiara (they/them) takes on the inaugural role as Freeplay’s Awards Lead. Having been involved in the Freeplay Festival since 2018, they’ve also helmed several interactive arts projects, including a Fringe Festival in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Elsewhere, the Freeplay board of directors has also received some new additions, including Joel Davison (Thoughtworks), Darcy Smith (Gubbins), Arieah Offman (ACMI) and James Manning (RMIT). Outgoing board members include Georgia Symons (Wayward Strand), Dan Golding (Untitled Goose Game, Frog Detective), and Doug Wilson (Mutazione).

You can find out more about Freeplay and the new team on the Freeplay website.

Edmond was the founding managing editor of GamesHub. He was also previously at GameSpot for 13 years, where he was the Australian Editor and an award-winning video producer. You can follow him @EdmondTran