Writer, Narrative Designer & Director Swords Narrative (He/Him/His) Naarm - Melbourne, Australia A writer and narrative designer with a background in audience development and arts management. He’s worked for indies in Berlin, AAA in Sweden, and is now based in Australia helping forward-thinking developers forge strong relationships with their audiences through stories, narrative systems and player care. With assistance from Creative Victoria’s Creator’s Fund, he’s also developed the Forest Paths Method of Narrative Design helping developers to discover the power of their own stories built on the design pillars of their projects away from Western conventions and with an understanding of player motivation beyond demographics and traditional models.
Senior Narrative Designer Remedy Entertainment (She/Her/Hers) Espoo, Finland Brooke Maggs is an award-winning narrative designer who has worked on games like Control, The Gardens Between, Paperbark, and Florence. She works as a Senior Narrative Designer at Remedy Entertainment and is currently working on project Vanguard, a live, multiplayer game. When she’s not playing games, she’s writing her own fiction and enjoying the forests of Finland.
Design Manager/Narrative Director PikPok (He/Him/His) Te Whanganui-a-Tara - Wellington, Aotearoa NZ Rick Stemm is a Wellington-based game writer, designer, artist, and community leader originally from Madison, WI and San Antonio, TX. He is Design Manager and Narrative Director at PikPok, supporting the entire Design Department, setting standards for the new narrative team, and most importantly, helping people communicate. Rick keeps a foot in the indie art scene, as a playwright represented by Playmarket, fight choreographer, and transmedia artist doing weird art.
Games Producer Metia Interactive (She/Her/Hers) Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau a Apanui, Ngāi Tahu Tāmaki Makaurau - Auckland, Aotearoa NZ Maru is the founder of Metia Interactive and Auckland based game development company. She leads a team of developers that include artists and programmers. As well as designing and developing her own games she also produces 3rd party games across multiple platforms. As a games designer and producer her focus is on indigenous storytelling as culture-based games are hugely influential and are a powerful outlet for engagement and learning. Maru has published several Māori games, Sparx, to teach rangatahi how to manage depression, Māori Pā Wars, a strategic tower defense game, Tākaro to teach rangatahi about coding concepts and Guardian Maia, interactive fiction that follows the journey of a Māori woman through a dystopian New Zealand. Maru's goal is to deliver games that are meaningful, that feature strong cultural themes with unique stories to tell. Maru has a Masters degree in Technological Futures and her aim was to get an in-depth understanding of converging and emerging technologies, how disruption will change current platforms and to be prepared for future platforms. She was awarded a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit on 20 October 2016 for services to gaming and mental health and in 2018 was named as Forbes Top 50 Women in Technology.
Colin "CJ" Rowsell
Writer & Founder Project Tempest/Man on Fire (He/Him/His) Te Whanganui-a-Tara - Wellington, Aotearoa NZ Colin 'CJ' Rowsell is a narrative specialist with over 15 years experience shaping living stories across video games, TV, film, and startup businesses. CJ is the creator of Project Tempest, an emerging horror story world set on the Lovecraftian frontier of New Zealand. Early Project Tempest releases have been shortlisted for major international horror awards including the Shirley Jackson & Australasian Shadows. As part of this CJ hosts the Project Tempest Podcast, interviewing creators from around the world about their journeys, struggles, and inspirations.
Co-founder, Secret Lab / Producer, Yarn Spinner (He/Him/His) Muwinina - Hobart, Lutruwita- Tasmania, Australia Dr Paris Buttfield-Addison is co-founder of Secret Lab (https://secretlab.games), a game development studio based in beautiful Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Secret Lab builds games and game development tools, including the BAFTA- and IGF-winning Night in the Woods, the wildly popular Yarn Spinner (https://yarnspinner.dev), an open source narrative game development framework, and the award-winning ABC Play School and Qantas Joey Playbox iPad games. Paris formerly worked as a software engineer, and later product manager for Meebo, which was acquired by Google in 2012. He has a degree in medieval history, a PhD in Computing, and writes technical books (around 30 so far) on machine learning, programming, and game development for O’Reilly Media. He can be found on the Fediverse at http://cloudisland.nz/@parisba and online at http://paris.id.au
Narrative Designer / Freelance Writer (She/Her/Hers) Naarm - Melbourne, Australia Before becoming the deadly sistergirl the fascists fear, Samara-Jade was born to an unassuming family in rural Australia. She then had a heart attack before discovering dresses with pockets. Now, she is a freelance writer, narrative designer and QA wench. She still does MMA on the side, in between delivering talks and making G-14 classified games.
Author. Game Writer. Turbo Nerd. (He/Him/His) Canada / Australia Cam Rogers is a novelist, game writer and screenwriter. Cam has written for games such as Quantum Break and The Walking Dead: No Man's Land. He is currently the writer on Warframe. Born in Australia, he's been a crime reporter, journalist, vampire extra, and stand-up comedian. He once spent weeks cutting up chicken in a steel room with a defecting Soviet weightlifter and was almost trapped into working a Yakuza-run bowling alley in Kyoto. He currently lives and works in Canada.
Senior Narrative Designer PikPok He/Him/His Te Whanganui-a-Tara - Wellington, Aotearoa NZ Mike Boyes is a Senior Narrative Designer with almost a decade of experience in game development. His career spans over thirteen titles, most notably as a narrative designer on the award-winning Into The Dead 2. Mike's passion for storytelling goes beyond writing and includes directing voice actors and cutscenes while working inside the talented narrative team at Pikpok.
Games Design Lecturer SAE Institute (She/Her/Hers) Naarm - Melbourne, Australia Zhia Zariko is an academic turned educator, wanting to use her weird penchant for analysis to assist game developers to make better games. Currently an established tertiary educator in games design and media cultures, she is in the process of dipping her toes into the world of game development by diving into the deep end without water wings and making her own game about romance, intimacy, and kissing monsters.
Narrative & Systems Designer, Writer (He/Him/His) Naarm - Melbourne, Australia Timothy C. Best was a game journalist for almost a decade, working on magazines including Australian PC Gamer, Hyper, and PC PowerPlay ... which he edited for two years. In 2008 he jumped from writing about games to designing them. He has worked at indie studios in Perth, Melbourne and, now, New Zealand. Timothy is on contract as Principle Narrative Designer at Wētā Workshop's game studio.
Narrative Technologies Lead Yarn Spinner (He/Him/His) Muwinina - Hobart, Lutruwita- Tasmania, Australia Jon Manning is the co-founder of Secret Lab, an independent game development studio best known for their work on the BAFTA- and IGF-winning Night in the Woods, and on the hugely popular narrative tool Yarn Spinner. Jon is also the co-author of a number of books on Unity, Swift, and machine learning, and holds a PhD about jerks on the internet.
Narrative Director Blowfish Studios (She /Her/Hers) Eora - Sydney, Australia Ellen is a Game Director, Writer, Designer, and Producer. She has spent over a decade creating games for a variety of genres and platforms, exploring new and existing IPs in both original projects and games for clients. Working with companies including Fox/BlueSky Studios, Scholastic Inc., New Holland Publishing, Valiant Entertainment, EA Respawn, Gameloft, and Blowfish Studios. As Narrative Director for Phantom Galaxies, Ellen spearheads the storytelling strategy and execution for the game and beyond.
Production Director / Narrative Designer Deep Field Games (He/Him/His) Ōtepoti - Dunedin, Aotearoa NZ Henry Feltham is a narrative designer, producer and screenwriter based in Ōtepoti - Dunedin. He started writing for games in 2007 on the award-winning Casebook series, and was most recently lead writer on Rocketwerkz Studio’s 2021 co-op survival title Icarus. As a producer, he worked on Stationeers, and is currently Studio Director for Deep Field Games. He has also worked extensively in film, including co-writing This Town (2020) and for the upcoming Sundance series Far North.
Experienced Narrative Designer PikPok (She/Her/Hers) Te Whanganui-a-Tara - Wellington, Aotearoa NZ Stacey Wellington is a Narrative Designer with experience in both console and mobile games, currently working at PikPok. Before joining the games industry at the beginning of 2020, Stacey worked in libraries and museums, and completed an MA in Classical Studies. She is most interested in how games represent people and the worlds they live in, and how narrative design can achieve emotional impact, even for players who ‘don’t care about story.’
Lore Master for Flesh and Blood Legend Story Studios (He/Him/His) Ōtepoti - Dunedin, Aotearoa NZ Edwin has been a professional storyteller for games, novels, comics and television for the last 15 years. He has earned his keep as a freelance game writer and narrative designer while developing his own story worlds through novels and visual novels such as Skulls of Atlantis and The Falconers: Moonlight.
Writer-Designer-Director-Researcher Universe Creation 101 (She/They) Naarm - Melbourne, Australia Christy is a writer-designer-director-researcher of multi-artform and interactive projects. She has worked on installations, Apps, live games, tabletop, ARGs, VR, films, theatre, and TV shows. Her original interactive projects have won and been nominated for AWGIEs and WA Premier’s Prize, Freeplay, New Media Writing Prize, among other awards, and her work has been exhibited at the Experimenta’s New Media Arts Biennial, Contours, Parallels, Babycastles, PopUp Playground, CHIPlay, QUT’s Science & Technology Centre, and more. She has spoken at GDC, Sweden Games Conference, Freeplay, International Women in Digital Media Summit, GX Australia, and more. She has been nominated as a Pioneer and Creative Inspiration for the MCV Most Influential Women in Games in Australia & NZ; run labs and events such as Forward Slash Story, Crafting Intangibles, Extended Entertainment Experiences, Transmedia Victoria; and is part-time Professor of Cross-Media and Interactive Narrative at the Norwegian Film School.
Developer at Interactive Tragedy, LTD / Associate Professor of Visual Narrative (He/Him/His) Te Whanganui-a-Tara - Wellington, Aotearoa NZ Zach Dodson runs a secret game studio called Interactive Tragedy, LTD. He is also an Associate Professor working in the field of Narrative Design at Victoria University of Wellington where he teaches visual, design, and game students the principles of narrative architecture. He is the author of the illuminated novel Bats of the Republic, which has interactive elements, and has worked on other television and screen-based projects. A random selection of experiments can be seen at zachdodson.com
Narrative Designer PikPok (She/Her/Hers/They/Them/Theirs) Te Whanganui-a-Tara - Wellington, Aotearoa NZ Sarah Daymond is a seasoned storyteller with over a decade of experience captivating audiences. Her love for games and writing led her to become a Narrative Designer at PikPok, where she focuses on designing engaging and thought-provoking characters and missions for mobile games. Outside of work, she's an avid LARPer, tabletop gamer, poet, novelist, screenwriter, and theatre enthusiast, and is constantly exploring new ways to bring stories to life. With her range of experiences and passions, she is always eager to share her love of storytelling with others.
Narrative Technologies Lead Yarn Spinner (He/Him/His) Muwinina - Hobart, Lutruwita- Tasmania, Australia Tim Nugent pretends to be a game developer, programmer, tools builder, researcher, teacher, and tech author. When he isn’t busy avoiding being found out as a fraud, Tim spends most of his time designing and creating little apps and games he won’t let anyone see. He also spent a disproportionately long time writing this tiny little bio, most of which was taken up trying to stick a witty sci-fi reference in… before he simply gave up.
Community & Narrative Director Atawhai Interactive (She/Her/Hers) Ōtepoti - Dunedin, Aotearoa NZ Lisa is the Narrative Director and Co-Director of Atawhai Interactive, an indie video game studio based in Ōtepoti, New Zealand. She teaches game design and production part-time at Te Pūkenga Otago Polytechnic and co-teaches ENGL251: Creative Writing for Games and Interactive Media at Otago University. Previously Lisa was the Narrative Designer and the Community Director for award winning developer Runaway Play. Prior to working in the video game industry, she wrote an honors dissertation about indigenous storytelling in video games.
Assistant Professor of Digital Media Arts & Animation Southern Illinois University (He/Him/His) Illinois, USA Kevin Mercer is currently Assistant Professor of Digital Media Arts & Animation at Southern Illinois University where he teaches courses in experimental animation, environment design, drawing, and media arts foundations. He previously taught art and design courses at Hastings College in Hastings, Nebraska and Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi. Mercer earned a BFA degree from Western Illinois University and an MFA degree from The Pennsylvania State University. Mercer has exhibited physical and digital work with: Art with Impact, San Francisco, CA; Treat Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; Artists’ Milepost, Portland, OR; Pensacola Museum of Art, FL; Philadelphia Center for Architecture, PA; Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, TX; CICA Museum, Gimpo-si, South Korea. He recently produced a solo exhibition, Dipole, for Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS. Recent presentations include: Interdisciplinary VR: Merging Game Design & Language to Facilitate Student Engagement during the International Conference on Meaningful Play at Michigan State University; SALUKI-X: Investigating Ethical Space Exploration Through Hybrid Methodologies for Designing, Mapping & Navigating Virtual & Built Environments during the Mid-America College Art Association Conference at Slippery Rock University.
Community & Media Manager / Narrative Designer Balancing Monkey Games (She/Her/Hers) Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa NZ After moving across the Tasman in 2019, Emily joined Balancing Monkey Games in March 2020 and has been there ever since. As Community & Media Manager and Narrative Designer, you can find Emily juggling a weird and wonderful variety of tasks while imbuing her community with as much love as possible. When she’s not working you can usually find Emily playing guitar, or getting her hands dirty in the garden.
Cultural Advisor, Senior Ranger & Researcher Te Rūnaka o Ōtākou (He/Him) Ko Te Atua o Taiehu te Mauka Ko Ōtakou te Tai Ko Ōtakou te Marae Ko Kāi Tahu, Taranaki, Ngāi Takoto kā iwi Tūmai Cassidy was born and raised in Ōtepoti - Dunedin, with a deep understanding of Kāi Tahu language, culture and traditional ecological knowledge. Since 2020 he has lead a manawhenua environmental restoration project at Te Nohoaka o Tukiauau / Sinclair wetlands. Tūmai has many roles within Te Rūnaka o Ōtākou and is heavily involved in both local and national conservation and environmental restoration initiatives. Currently Tūmai is a member of the Otago Conservation Board and is an advisor to Predator Free in the landscape scale projects backbone team. Tūmai is interested in how the environment and can benefit from modern technology.
Writer, Dramaturg, Script Advisor Prospect Park Productions (She/Her/Hers) Ōtepoti - Dunedin, Aotearoa NZ Emily Duncan is a multi-award-winning Ōtepoti–Dunedin raised and based writer, dramaturg, and director. She won the 2020 Bruce Mason Award, the 2021 Adam NZ Play Award, as well as the Best Play by a Woman Playwright and the McNaughton South Island Play Award categories, and the 2022 McNaughton South Island Play Award. The latter was for her adaptation of Katherine Mansfield’s The Woman at the Store. In 2019 she was the University of Otago’s Robert Burns Fellow, and is the recipient of the Friends of the Hocken Collections Award 2023. Emily is the co-founder of Prospect Park Productions, home of Ōtepoti Theatre Lab and Ōtepoti Writers Lab. She holds a PhD in Theatre from the University of Otago and trained at the Strasberg Institute in New York City. Her plays have been published by Playmarket in the anthologies Here/Now (2015) and 101 New Zealand Monologues for Youth (2019).