Friday 24th

Day 3: Friday 24 Feb

9.30 Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Panel Event

State Library of Victoria Theatrette

Screenwriter Elisabeth Coleman and line producer Anna Molyneaux from EveryCloud Productions discuss the process of revisioning Melbourne in the 1920s and recreating the Miss Fisher novels for the screen. The session will begin with a screening of an episode from the third season of the popular series, followed by morning tea and the panel discussion. A second episode from the first season will also screen at 12 pm for anyone interested. Chaired by Terrie Waddell (La Trobe University). Presented in partnership with La Trobe University.

Elisabeth Coleman is a scriptwriter and dramatist. She wrote her first television scripts for The Flying Doctors in 1986 and has since written prolifically for Australian television favourites including Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012-2015), Bed of Roses (2008), McCloud’s Daughters (2005-2006), All Saints (2005), and Blue Heelers (2005), Sea Change (1998) and Heartbreak High (1996-1997). Elisabeth has written numerous plays that have toured nationally including It’s My Party (And I’ll Die If I Want To) (1993).

Anna Molyneaux is a line producer and production manager for film, television and documentary. Her television credits include Wolf Creek (2015-2016), Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2011-2015), City Homicide (2009-2010), The Saddle Club (2007-2008) and John Safran vs. God (2004).

Terrie Waddell is a Reader/Associate Professor of Media Arts, La Trobe University. Her research focuses on the relationship between screen media, literature, gender, popular culture and psychology. As well as chapter and journal contributions, she has authored and edited: Eavesdropping: The Psychotherapist in Film and Television (co-editor Routledge, 2015), Wild/lives: Trickster, Place and Liminality on Screen (Routledge, 2010), Mis/takes: Archetype, Myth and Identity in Screen Fiction (Routledge, 2006), Lounge Critic: The Couch Theorist’s Companion (co-editor, ACMI, 2004); and Cultural Expressions of Evil and Wickedness: Wrath, Sex, Crime (editor, Rodopi, 2003).

1pm   Tour of the Limelight Department Studios

Salvation Army Heritage Centre

The Limelight Department was the Salvation Army’s pioneering film production and presentation unit in Australia. Between 1892 and 1909 its many productions, included 300 films and the major multimedia presentations Soldiers of the Cross and Heroes Of The Cross. The unit also documented Australia’s Federation ceremonies in 1901. Australia’s first dedicated film studio was created by The Salvation Army at 69 Bourke Street, Melbourne, in a room that still stands preserved much as it was at the turn of the century.

5pm   Melbourne’s Artistic Games History Panel Event

Australian Centre for the Moving Image, The Cube 

Helen Stuckey, Dan Golding, Hugh Davies and Chad Toprak discuss Melbourne’s long history of experimentation in games development and its legacy today. Chaired by Helen Stuckey. 

Melbourne House – the literary origins of local game development
Helen Stuckey, Flinders University

The story of Melbourne House publishing is perhaps the most unusual story of page to screen. Melbourne House is a name well known to British and European computer gamers of the 1980s. According to the Australian Business Review Weekly, in 1984 Melbourne House owned 10% of the $30-$35 million British games market, the company consistently had three or four games in the ‘Top30’ games sales of the era. Some of these games were developed in the living room of a small South Yarra flat and others in a seedy South Melbourne studio space next to a brothel and an all-­night taxi cafe. But Australia’s first videogame developer is not a conventional bedroom coder technology start-up story but rather its origins lie with maverick book publishers Outback Press. Outback Press was founded by four young Melbourne rebels in 1973 to publish local stories, art and photography in defiance of Australia’s UK controlled book publishing regime that served to stifle local voices. Melbourne House’s Alfred Milgrom formed part of that original four-person team with his friend Morry Schwartz.

This paper examines the history of Australian game developers Beam Software and their parent company, publishers Melbourne House. It explores the origins of Melbourne House in art house publishing, and reveals how the company’s genesis was not within the story of computing, but rose from an impassioned support Australian artistic expression. Exposed is the central role that Australia’s colonial past played in the emergence of games development in Melbourne.

Helen Stuckey is the Games Program Manager in the School of Media and Communications at RMIT University. She was the inaugural Games Curator at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (2004-2009) where she produced and curated the Games Lab an exhibition space dedicated to exploring videogame culture. As a curator she has contributed to such significant international exhibitions as Game On (2002-), Gameworld (2007) and Game Masters (2012-). She recently completed her PhD “Remembering Australian Videogames of the 1980s: What museums can learn from retro games communities about the curation of game history” as part of the Australian Research Project Play it Again: Creating a Playable History of Australasian Digital Games, for Industry, Community and Research Purposes.

Artists, outsiders, and the industry: Melbourne’s experimental videogame history
Dan Golding, Swinburne University

In 1980, the book publishers Alfred Milgrom and Naomi Besen returned to Melbourne from London and established Beam Software, Australia’s first videogames development company. Since then, Melbourne has been a foundational hub for Australia’s videogame development industry, and has been home to hundreds of studios, large and small alike. Melbourne is acknowledged as a hub for the Australian videogame industry in scholarly research (Banks and Cunningham, 2016; Apperley and Golding, 2015; Hinton 2009), yet tensions remain between what Keogh calls ‘Triple-A, lndie, Casual, and DIV’ (2015) as modes of Melbourne’s development culture. As Banks and Cunningham note, Melbourne is sometimes “characterised by a thriving indie scene with much more of a games-as-art approach than just chasing commercial success,” in contrast to other Australian centres, such as Brisbane (2016, 134).

However, the histories of videogames in Melbourne are still largely focussed on commercial successes, including games like The Hobbit (Beam Software, 1982), Way of the Exploding Fist (Beam Software, 1985), and De Blob (Blue Tongue, 2008), and emphasise large studios with international publishing deals and many employees or contractors, such as Blue Tongue, Transmission Games, Tantalus, IR Gurus, Atari Melbourne House, and more recently, Firemonkeys. Accordingly, though the contemporary understanding of Melbourne’s videogame culture is one strongly influenced by an ‘arts’ approach and experimentation, historical accounts still focus on studios with links to videogames’ global capital. Yet Melbourne also has a long and prolific history of experimentation and work at the margins of the industry that is not always reflected in historical accounts. Accordingly, drawing on the work of artists and collectives such as Selectparks, the Escape From Woomera team, and Julian Oliver, this paper will argue for a link between older experimental game-making in Melbourne and more contemporary work that exists at the fringes of Melbourne videogame culture, such as that of Lee Shang Lun, Alexander Bruce, Ian Mclarty, and games like Once Upon A Spacetime (2011), and Movement Study 1 (2014, unreleased).

Dan Golding is a lecturer in Media and Communications at Swinburne University and a writer on the Australian games industry. In 2015, his series ‘A Short History of Video Games’ was broadcast on ABC Radio National, which was later Highly Commended at the 13th Annual IT Journalism ‘Lizzie’ awards. He is also a contributing editor at Metro Magazine. In 2016, Dan co-wrote Game Changers (Affirm Press), and wrote the soundtrack to Push Me Pull You (PS4). Dan is currently the director of the Freeplay Independent Games Festival.

Hugh Davies is an interdisciplinary artist, academic and media researcher with a keen interest in experimental and expansive games. Hugh was inaugural board chair of the Freeplay Independent Games Festival and his PhD examined transmedia games mixed reality experiences. He has held professional roles including multiplatform producer at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and senior lecturer in Media Arts at La Trobe University. With creative output spanning sculpture, participatory installation, video art and games, his works have been presented in Europe, the Americas and the Asia Pacific Region.

Chad Toprak is a passionate game designer and researcher at the lab who holds a Bachelor of Arts (Digital Art) degree at RMIT University. He co-directs and curates Hovergarden, Melbourne’s monthly gathering and celebration of local multiplayer indie games. With the intention of doing further research and studies in games and digital play, Chad is currently undertaking a PhD degree. His passion lies in social, playful and pervasive games, with evoking playfulness through ludic interventions as one of his main research interests. Chad actively participates in and contributes to festivals and events such as Freeplay.