Speakers for the online international and local event.

Look at these wonderful folk! In alphabetical order:

Annette Mees

Annette Mees (British, UK) on the dramaturgy of audience interaction

Annette Mees is an award winning artist and theatre director. She is one of the leading experts in responsive theatre and narratives in the UK — stories which respond to the audience and change each time they are played. She develops interactive projects, advises and speaks nationally and internationally on audience interaction, the integration of live and digital work and how to make beautiful experiences that allow for a real dialogue with audiences. She is the former co-artistic director of Coney and Creative Fellow of WIRED and The Space. Twitter: @AnnetteMees

Brian Upton

Brian Upton (American, USA) on non-interactive play

Brian Upton has twenty years of experience in the industry. He was Lead designer of Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon. He spent fifteen years as a senior designer at PlayStation, guiding external teams through every stage of production. Brian is the author of The Aesthetic of Play. When he’s not making games or playing games, he’s writing about games or teaching about games. Twitter: @BBUpton

Brie Code

Brie Code (Canadian, CAN) on love drugs

Brie is a speaker, writer, AI programmer, and the CEO and creative director of Tru Luv Media, a video game studio making games with people who don’t like games. Brie travels frequently to to work with emerging game development communities and speak at games and tech events. She recently joined the team at Game Girl Workshop. Brie has a monthly column at GamesIndustry.biz. Previously, Brie was a lead programmer at Ubisoft on the soft, ethereal game Child of Light and three Assassin’s Creed games. She started her career writing AI code. Twitter: @BrieCode

Cara Ellison

Cara Ellison (Scottish, Scotland) on iterating story

Cara Ellison is a Scottish writer. She was paid by the internet to travel the world writing about people who make games, which has turned into a book called Embed With Games. She is now a narrative designer for video games and spends most of her time writing words for made up people.

Charles Huang

Charles Hans Huang (American, USA) on humanistic games

Charles Huang is a programmer and game maker currently making educational games and websites at Scholastic. Receiving his B.S. in Computer Science from Stony Brook University in 2013, he was a two time Finalist in the Stony Brook University Game Programming Competition (one time 3rd) and was President of its Game Developers club, and was a Research and Development Intern at Arkadium. His work has been covered in Rock, Paper, Shotgun, PC Gamer, the Weird F***in Games newsletter, and Critical Distance. He also organized the GDC Unparty, a quiet networking event at the Game Developers Conference. Twitter: @CharlesHHuang

Chris Avellone

Chris Avellone (American, USA) on when to stop creating

Chris Avellone is best known for his work on a number of role-playing games, including Planescape: Torment, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, Fallout (2 and New Vegas), and Prey. He is currently working on Divinity: Original Sin II with Larian Studios, Into the Breach with Subset Games (the makers of FTL), and was part of the successful Kickstarter reboot of System Shock with Night Dive Studios and lead designer on Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition with Beamdog. Twitter: @ChrisAvellone

David Varela

David Varela (British, UK) on designing for player emotion

David Varela is a writer and narrative designer whose work brings together games, theatre and video. His recent projects include writing the mobile adventure Sherlock: The Network, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman; the iOS murder mystery game The Trace; the single player campaign of Space Ape’s Samurai Siege; and the chart-topping mobile game Zombies, Run!(as script consultant). Before all that, he was a writer and/or producer on the ARGs Perplex City, Lewis Hamilton: Secret Life, and Xi. Twitter: @WritingStudio

Katharine Neil

Katharine Neil (New Zealander, France) on narrative as gameplay progression

Katharine Neil has been developing games since 1998 as a professional game designer, sound designer, and programmer. She has also worked outside the commercial industry creating game-based artwork and fostering game development within the Australian arts community. Katharine was the Creative Director of the Escape From Woomera game project in 2003, and in 2004 with Marcus Westbury she co-founded Free Play — Australia’s annual independent game developers conference. She made her original title Alone in the Park, and is currently developing a narrative-based game for nyamyam. Twitter: @Haikus_by_KN

Ken Eklund

Ken Eklund (American, USA) on hero-free narratives

Ken Eklund is a game and experience designer, best known for pioneering “authentic fictions” — immersive what-if storymaking games about serious subjects. In these games people explore real-world issues through collaborative play and have fun working together to bring possible futures into clearer focus and to imagine positive solutions and action. Twitter: @writerguygames

Linda Aronson

Linda Aronson (Australian, AUS) on multi-protagonist structures

Linda is a multi award winning scriptwriter, novelist and playwright who also consults on film and TV scripts, teaches scriptwriting for TV and film and writes for TV and more recently, VR. She is the only screenwriting consultant who, as well as advising on conventional structure Hollywood style, also provides practical guidelines for writing complex nonlinear film and TV series (and some cross media, transmedia and games) using flashback, time jumps and multiple fractured storylines. Her most recent masterclasses include how to use nonlinear story arcs in longform TV series to create binge viewing. She is one of the busiest ‘gurus’ on the international circuit and her books Screenwriting Updated and The 21st Century Screenplay are required reading at film schools all over the world. Twitter: @AronsonLinda

Magy Seif El-Nasr

Magy Seif El-Nasr (American, USA) on self-determination theory, serious game design & data

Magy Seif El-Nasr is an associate Professor at the Colleges of Computer and Information Sciences and Arts, Media and Design, where she directs the Playable Innovative Technologies Lab. Dr. Seif El-Nasr received several grants totaling over $5.35 Million to support her research. She published over 120 international peer reviewed articles on her work. Her research focuses on two goals (a) developing automated tools and techniques for authoring, adapting, and personalizing virtual environments (e.g., interactive narrative, believable characters, and visuals), and (b) developing evidence-based methodologies to measure the effectiveness of game environments through the development of novel in-depth behavior mining and visual analytics tools. Her work is internationally known and cited in several game industry books. She has received several awards and recognition within the game research community. Twitter: @MagySeif

Matt Forbeck

Matt Forbeck (American, USA) on using context to give a story meaning

Matt Forbeck is an award-winning and New York Times-bestselling author and game designer. He has over thirty novels and countless games published to date. His latest work includes the Star Wars: Rogue One junior novel, Dungeonology, Captain America: The Ultimate Guide to the First Avenger, Halo: New Blood, the Magic: The Gathering comics, and The Marvel Encyclopedia. Matt has designed collectible card games, roleplaying games, miniatures games, board games, logic systems for toys, and written short fiction, comic books, novels, screenplays, and video game scripts and stories. He has worked with many top companies, including Activision, Angry Robot, Atari, Blizzard, Games Workshop,Hasbro, Lucasfilm, Mattel, Microsoft, Paradox Entertainment, Penguin Random House, Random House, Simon & Schuster, Tor, TSR, Ubisoft, White Wolf, and Wizards of the Coast. Twitter: @MForbeck

Paul Callaghan

Paul Callaghan (Scottish, UK) on structures as humans

Paul Callaghan is the Games & Interactive Programme Manager with the British Council, the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. His career in games includes work as a programmer, designer, writer, educator, and creative producer, and he sits on the steering committee for the London Games Festival, and is an advisor for Now Play This. Previously in Australia, from 2009 until 2012 he was the co-director and then director of the Freeplay Independent Games Festival. Twitter: @Paul_Callaghan

Peter Dunne

Peter Dunne (American, USA) on emotional structure

Peter served as the Vice President of Development for three Hollywood studios before beginning his career as a screenwriter and producer. Among the projects he has produced and/or written are such classics as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Melrose Place, Savannah, Police Story, Dallas, Knots Landing, Eight is Enough, JAG, Nowhere Man, Dr.Quinn: Medicine Woman, and the extraordinary miniseries Sybil. He has compiled an impressive list of honors along the way that includes the Emmy Award, the George Foster Peabody Broadcasting Award, the Scott Newman Award, the Chicago Film Festival’s Silver Hugo, and the distinguished Kennedy Foundation’s Saint Coletta Award, among others. He wrote the book Emotional Structure: Crafting the Story Beneath the Plot, A Guide for Screenwriters.

Toiya Kristen Finley

Toiya Kristen Finley (American, USA) on contrary design

Nashville native Toiya Kristen Finley is a writer, editor, game designer, narrative designer, and game writer. She holds a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from Binghamton University. With nearly 70 published works, she has over 20-years experience writing in a range of genres, tones, styles, and voices. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and selected to a best-of series. In videogames, she has worked as a game designer, narrative designer, game writer, and editor on several unreleased and in-production indie, social, and mobile games. She co-authored The Game Narrative Toolbox (Focal Press, 2015), a book on narrative design. She is a member of the IGDA Game Writing Special Interest Group’s Executive Board. Twitter: @ToiyaKFinley


The local event on Sat 10th June at BarSK (Collingwood), will be a place for attendees to watch the talks on the screen and do the activities together. There will be no guest speakers in Melbourne, but the event will be MCed by Leena van Deventer! Bar SK Facebook Event here.

Leena van Deventer

MC — Leena van Deventer (AUS, Melb)

Leena is an award-winning game developer, writer, and educator from Melbourne. She has taught interactive storytelling at Swinburne and RMIT Universities and published her first book last year, “Game Changers: From Minecraft to misogyny, the fight for the future of videogames” with Dr Dan Golding for Affirm Press. Leena has worked on games and apps such as “Twists & Turns” for the Melbourne Writers Festival, and as a senior copywriter on “Run That Town” for the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which went on to win a Gold Lion award at Cannes. @LeenaVanD


The local event on Saturday 10th June at SAE Creative Media Institute (West End), will feature guided sessions from the speakers above, and local guests including the following, and more!

Christy Dena

MC — Christy Dena (AUS, Brisbane)

Christy is a writer-designer-director who has worked on award-winning pervasive games, film, digital and theatre projects. Her original audio-driven comedy App delving into the meaning of death, won the Interactive Media category at the Australian Writers’ Guild Awards; and won the Digital Narrative category at the WA Premier’s Book Awards. Christy’s commission to create an installation for Experimenta’s 5th International Biennial of Media Art: Recharge, explored escaping detrimental with a comedy escape-the-room game, and was featured in Cara Ellison’s Embed with Games. Christy was granted Australia’s first Digital Writing Residency at The Cube for her installation about developing empathy for robots. Christy co-founded with Lance Weiler an international residential lab called “Forward Slash Story” to build and nurture the community of creatives working in the fringes. Twitter: @ChristyDena

Ellen Jurik

Ellen Jurik (AUS, Syd) on action and intent [Brisbane appearance tbc]

Ellen is a professional Game Designer and Producer. She currently fills both of those roles at Blowfish Studios in Sydney, before which, she was Producer for Ice Age Adventures at Gameloft in Auckland, and Content Designer-turned-Producer at the ill-fated Interzone Games in Perth. Ellen’s honours thesis explored adapting Aristotle’s definition of tragedy to game narrative. Twitter: @EllenJurik

Katryna Starks

Katryna Starks (AUS, Sunshine Coast) on the broad appeal of niche characters

Katryna designed the Interactive Narrative minor within the Serious Games Design degree at the University of the Sunshine Coast and currently lectures within the program. She is also completing her PhD as a member of University of the Sunshine Coast’s ENGAGE lab. She holds a Master’s degree in Psychology with a focus on how video games can foster health-promoting behaviours. Her current research focus is on how narrative within games effects identification, self-efficacy and agency in adolescent and young adult females. Twitter: @KatrynaStarks

Liam Esler

Liam Esler (AUS, Melb) on new tropes

Liam Esler is a diversity advocate, game developer and sometime event manager from Melbourne, Australia. He works at the Game Developers’ Association of Australia to help run Game Connect Asia Pacific, is Co-Director of GX Australia, the first queer gaming convention to hit Australian shores, and Co-Director of the IDGA LBGTQI+ Special Interest Group. Liam was the Design Fellow on Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity, and contract writer on Balder’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition. Twitter: @LiamEsler

Malcolm Ryan

Malcolm Ryan (AUS, Sydney) on game mechanics as a mode of narrative expression

Dr Malcolm Ryan is a lecturer in game design and development at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. His research interests are multidisciplinary and examine the connections between games and narrative theory, moral psychology and education. He also works as an independent videogame and boardgame designer under the banner of WordsOnPlay. He published his first game title, The Road, in 2016. Twitter: @MalcolmRyan

Rik Lagarto

Rik Lagarto (AUS, Canberra) on environmental storytelling in games [Brisbane appearance tbc]

Rik began his story creating career as a theatre performance maker, working primarily as a director and writer in performances that fused text, movement and multimedia. For the last 12 years Rik has worked as a writer, narrative designer and game designer for companies such as 2K Australia, Creative Assembly and is currently working with Prideful Sloth on Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles — due for July 2017 release. Rik has also had has several short stories published. Rik is based in Canberra, Australia, where he also teaches game design and is an active committee member for the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild. Twitter: @RikLagarto


If you are interested in volunteering to help run this online from your own country, or locally in Brisbane, email christy [at] universecreation101 [dot] com.

Ruby Simpson

Ruby Simpson (AUS, Bris) is passionate about storytelling and connecting people through gameplay. She has released two interactive stories which can be found at rubies.itch.io. Ruby is currently working on a series of audio stories where the player embodies the character. Twitter: @RubyTSimpson.

Jacob Duniam

Jacob Duniam (AUS, Bris) is a Game Designer. Studying at SAE Brisbane. Loves meaningful Games, Art, Film and Design. Will draw when provoked. Twitter: @JacobDuniam.