Critical failure…

The Wheeler Centre here in Melbourne recently ran a series of panels under the banner of ‘Critical Failure‘. These took in film, books, theatre, and the visual arts, and were designed to promote debate.  And promote debate they did, with it spilling out of the Wheeler Centre and across the internet on Crikey, the ABC, in the Guardian, and on blogs.

I think these debates are incredibly interesting, both because they reveal the huge schism between those critics working in traditional print media and those working online (and, in fact, their opinions of online), and also because of what you can learn from them about criticism and how it might relate to games and the broader culture.

Click through for my thoughts…

Read moreCritical failure…


It’s been pretty quiet around here, not because I don’t have things to say, but because I’ve been working pretty flat out on pulling together Freeplay – which, if early accounts & the vibrant twitter feed are to be believed, was pretty succesful.

In the run-up, I wrote a fairly lenghty post about my own personal goals for the event, reflecting on the creative aspects of designing a festival.   I might still publish that if I ever get time to edit it, but I wanted to share one of my favourite comments (from twitter) about what we did.

#freeplay10 feels a lot like reading DanC’s Lost Garden, where many of the principles discussed can easily relate to any application in life” – GameTacoWall, 11:29 Aug 14

I couldn’t have put it better myself 🙂

Goals and opposition in Fabric

This latest build of Fabric introduces goals – helping the blue particles to coalesce and eventually form suns & planets – and opposition – in the form of the red spikey particles which can destroy the blue particles.

What’s interesting here is how much focus has been pulled away from the grid – which was the original element.  It feels like the more nouns that are added to the game space, the less interesting & dynamic it becomes.   All the player is really doing in this version is clicking on the red spikey particles, rather than balancing destroying the grid & stitching it back together.

Next step, I think, is to pare it back and consider how the player interacts with the grid because adding elements to the space doesn’t seem to work.  That might be some time because this week, there’s the Digital Distribution Summit, I’m running some workshops in Yarrawonga, and the flying to Sydney to do a presentation at Screen Australia – then we’ll be into October and the first of the Freeplay Experimental Gameplay Projects.


Once I’d recovered from pulling the event together, I found myself really inspired by the people at Freeplay who were pulling together their own projects – and it made me want to do the same.

So, I’ve started two things.

The first is an attempt over at the freeplay forums to run monthly experimental gameplay projects in Melbourne, producing one highly experimental game every month within 7 days and fitting a theme.  The first will run in October and we’re still deciding on the theme.  Head on over and sign up if you’re interested in taking part.

The second is I’ve started putting together what I think will actually be a bigger game now that I’ve started it.  It’s called ‘Fabric’ and I’m going to try and document its progress here.

The original idea for Fabric came from thinking about expressing connections mechanically, and also about creating a game where you had to destroy part of the environment in order to protect it.

The fabric of the game world is essentially a cloth simulation – particles connected by springs – with charged elements that travel along the grid-lines, seeking out their nearest neighbour.  When those charges connect, they destroy a large area of the grid around them.  The only way to stop them moving is to destroy the grid-line they’re travelling along.  The overall aim of the game is to stop the fabric unravelling completely as you can see it doing towards the end of the movie.

It’s still early days, but even at this early stage, the nature of the technology has brought up restrictions in what I originally thought I could do gameplay wise, but it’s also opened up other possibilities too, which was the whole point of the experiment.


Well, Freeplay 2009 took place at the State Library over the weekend, and went really well.  We had over 50 speakers taking part in 26 sessions, and over 500 people through both our expo area in experimedia and our panel & workshop sessions in the conference centre.

in the run-up, I did a whole bunch of media related stuff that I figured I’d try to gather here.  For more information, including what other people thought of the event, images, and plans for future events head over to the Freeplay website.

Article on Jason Hill’s Screenplay blog

Interview on ABC 774

Byte into IT on RRR

Q&A on the Screenplay blog

Some upcoming presentations…

In the run up to Freeplay, I’m doing a couple of presentations / talks / general ramblings.

  • I’m going to be talking at the Computer Games Boot Camp taking place at Monash in July.  The program should be up soon, but it’ll likely be a general ramble about my job as a writer with a little bit of workshopping thrown in to keep things interesting.
  • I’ll also be talking at the ICT & Careers Expo on August 1st as part of VITTA’s ICT Week.  Looks like it’ll be an updated version of my talk from last year discussing my winding career path to where I am now – and the importance of playing games if you’re going to make them.
  • Lastly, I’ll be doing a presentation at CAE‘s Writing for the Web class on August 4th about mechanics and expression, games on the web, and ARGs.


So, we’ve been rattling around behind the scenes for a while now, but it’s now officially out in the world – Eve Penford-Dennis & I are working on putting Freeplay on for 2009. We’re both very excited about the possibilities of the event and in continuing to support the gaming community.

Check out the announcement and our website.