Madrid and Working on Magister Ludi


I had a great time in Madrid at the Transmedia Living Lab. I really enjoyed catching up with David Varela, Simon Staffans and Robert Pratten. I also enjoyed having a mini-holiday in the afternoon and evenings in Madrid: wandering the streets looking for the best Gin Mojito, shopping, sitting in the park, seafood paella dinners at 9pm. There were a lot of students, researchers, and practitioners at the event, and there was plenty of opportunity for lengthy Q&As — so that made it a more satisfying experience.


While I was in the air flying back from Madrid, a sneak peek of my forthcoming game Magister Ludi was shown at a private Experimenta event. Magister Ludi was also selected as part of the Freeplay Independent Games Festival event Parallels. I recorded a video to describe the work and Goldie (the artist) helped out with doing a bit of a walkthrough. Very excited.

Indeed, production of Magister Ludi has continued since I have returned. Along with the Art, Sound, and Programming, this week has involved finishing the installation part of the work. I bought an original 1950s school desk and had Greg Quincey do the carpentry to install an iPad. The carpentry ensures the iPad is secured along with the cords, but at the same time makes it easy for the exhibition staff to open the panel and make any adjustments. I have tested downloading the build through TestFlight with a special account I created for the iPad, so we can update the game easily while it is on the road if necessary. We have to make sure the installation can tour easily as the Experimenta Recharge event tours Australia for a year.

photo (5)

Along with the equipment is of course the game elements. Cameron has set up special Google spreadsheets so I can update the dialogue any time there, and then he just downloads and imports it to Unity (as opposed to him copy and pasting from a spreadsheet). This works much better and frees me up to keep making tweaks. The Art for most of the rooms is done, and so is the Sound. Goldie and Trevor have done a great job (and Cameron), and so I’m really looking forward to seeing the entire build together (and then tweaking). The game will be available online as well, so anyone not in Australia or not able to go to the exhibition can experience it as well. More news soon!

magister ludi screenshot

Announcing my new game coming soon: “Magister Ludi”

I am excited to officially announce I have a new game coming out soon. I have been commissioned to create a game for Experimenta‘s 6th International Biennial of Media Art: Recharge. The game, called Magister Ludi, is an escape-the-room game with a twist. It is a game about our role in needing to escape. I personally love analysing my thought processes. I observe the way I think and I watch the way other people think. Games are a format that allow me to communicate the inner workings of thought processes.

Magister Ludi is a personal game about the thought processes I have needed to do to move beyond the experience of abuse and poverty. I found that there are two steps I undertook to successfully leave these patterns behind. One is to understand how outside forces think (people and systems), and the other is to understand my role in living with them. Realising how gaslighting works for instance, and how I was complicit in the effects. Realising how I sacrificed my well-being for the sake of others, whether they be a person or a debtor. It is about the reprogramming I have undertaken to ensure I never fall into an abusive relationship again, and never move into poverty again.

My awesome collaborators on the game are artist Marigold Bartlett, who has worked with me on my physical party card game DIY SPY School; sound artist Trevor Dikes, who worked with me on the web audio adventure AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS; and new collaborator programmer Cameron Owens of Attract Mode Games (who are about to release their game Tail Drift).

The game will be launched late November in Melbourne, and there will a special sneak peek has been selected for Freeplay’s Parallels showcase next week at ACMI! There has been some press about the game with Time Out, Fluoro, and Game Could:

I am looking forward to hearing what you think of the game…OMG! 🙂

Awards, Meaningful Games, Megagames, StoryWorld, and Solving the Sleep Mystery

Hello everyone!

We have now switched to a studio model at SAE. This means the teaching shifts from a lecture & workshop model to one in which students jump straight into creating games from our brief, and we mentor and do lecture & workshop follow-ups based on need. I am running a studio on “Making Meaningful Games,” and one of the things students do in the studios is blog each week about their practice. I said I would do it with them and sooooooo: I will be blogging every week for the next few months! I’ll be blogging like it is 2007! 😀

The first news? AUTHENTIC has won two awards!!!! The Australian Writers’ Guild awarded AUTHENTIC in the “interactive media” category for the 47th Annual AWGIES. AUTHENTIC was described as “category-busting”. I couldn’t be at the ceremony, and so I did my first pre-recorded award acceptance speech! Although there were no other nominees, I do know there were other submissions. More on this in a moment. The second award for AUTHENTIC was in the “Digital Narrative” category for the 2014 Western Australia Premier’s Book Awards.

AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS is transmedia storytelling at its finest, borrowing the best of existing narrative techniques across a range of media, harnessing these to tell a compelling story about mortality and materiality in a playful but meaningful manner. AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS is held together by a luscious audio story, not dissimilar to radio plays in their heyday, but now updated with interactive pathways, bespoke online locales and a series of beautifully designed interactive web pages.

ChristyatWAAwards_small(thankyou for the photo Tama!)

I was able to be at this ceremony and I had a ball! It was a thrill being driven around and toasted, and hanging with fellow award-winners. I also thanked the Premier and the Library for having this category, the only in a literary award in Australia. Afterwards when I was having my photo taken with the Premier he asked what digital narrative is. So if the category is suddenly removed it is because of me. I hope not, it is a wonderful thing for us.

There are a couple of things I have learned from the award experience. Firstly, I now know that winners in most cases find out before the ceremony. I didn’t know this before and so when I submitted to the ADG’s award and didn’t hear anything I thought maybe I was in with a chance. Like the AWG I won, they had only one nominee and announced it on the night. So if you didn’t win you not only find out you didn’t win, but also that you didn’t even score a nomination. Both at the same time. It is a pretty crap feeling. I wish there was a different system. Indeed I did contact the ADG and suggest they let the unsuccessful nominees know. But I guess that just sounds silly in retrospect. So for those of you that submitted to the AWG Awards – I know how it feels.

Secondly, I didn’t know what to do when I had found out about winning the awards. I didn’t feel like an award-winner (I submitted hoping for a nomination). There are things I would like to change in the project. Not just things that you learn over time post the project. But things that I knew at the time I needed to change but I didn’t have the budget for. At the same time, I also have people who experienced AUTHENTIC that send me emails about how much they love it. So I can’t deny their experience. In the end I have accepted the awards as a gift for all the work I have done, and I celebrate it because it means the crazy work of digital storytelling risk-takers is not always a lonely beacon.

While in Perth for the WA Premier’s Award ceremony, I gave a workshop on “Making Meaningful Games” for the Film and Television Institute there. Kate Raynes-Goldie invited me and it was a delight. Among the great people I was able to meet in person finally, such as Anthony Sweet and Wesley Lamont, was Will Kirk. Will has started a gaming news site called GameCloud. He dedicates lots of time to writing articles about the local scene and beyond for no financial compensation. He is also really keen to understand more about the process of making games, to make him a better game reviewer and critic. Will shared his experience of my workshop: “Designing Deep Games with Christy Dena”.

On the weekend I was lucky to help out as a co-game-master for a Megagame being run in Brisbane. Megagames are live games that run a full day. They’re designed by a UK group of designers and privilege strategy and some role-play. I was so excited when I saw the ShutUp and SitDown video about the event (see below), and have been hanging out to play one. It was a fascinating day – playing non-stop for 7 hours straight. I think I would prefer to play than game-master though, as there is so much running around and calculations going on. Although writing my own is the really exciting path…


I have also been watching and discussing the crazy events that have been taking place in the gaming world these past few weeks. I have been watching for a while how different women respond to feminism and shaken my head at the anti-feminism movement. At the same time, I have also looked back at my own behaviour in the past and seen how I have done damage myself too. Specifically, one event sticks in my mind because I actively took a role: the StoryWorld Advisory Board complaint. Writer Andrea Phillips bravely put forward that the board for StoryWorld was sexist. I was the only female on the board and so I felt it my duty to say something. Although I was not intending to reduce the seriousness of sexism, I did with my response.

I posted about how everyone agrees there is sexism. I now know this isn’t true, as some are still blind to it, and some deny it’s existence for various reasons. I also said that some of the criticisms about the board list were veiled criticisms of the people, rather than sexism. That I believe is still true. I then also said that I was concerned about the focus on Alison. This is also something I regret as I feel I jumped to her defence too quickly. I should have let her and others feel the depth of the experience. And further, I don’t think she did learn from the experience in the way I had hoped at the time. I am a supporter of Alison and she has a special place in my life as I mentored her many, many years ago. But I don’t think she understood the impact of having all-male boards – considering the following year no women were added to the board. I criticised women for messaging Andrea privately rather than speaking publicly. Doh! Of course they did, as there are many unreasonable repercussions of going public. I also encouraged more women to step up and take on directing positions etc. While I still want to see this more, it wasn’t appropriate to put such remarks in the middle of a discussion about sexism. There wasn’t an all male board because women don’t bother to step up. I think my post had a silencing effect, which is harmful and not helpful.

So I see how I have done things that didn’t help feminism. Indeed, if men are the majority of people agreeing with you then you may want to check your internalised sexism. So I apologise for the harm I did back then, and have a bit more understanding of how early feminists can do more harm than good.

My last comment is a weird but perhaps helpful discovery. For the last few months I have noticed that I can easily fall asleep on my couch, but then when I go to bed I toss and turn in eternal awakeness. I searched the Net to figure out why and found the answer. I have been scrolling through social media in the morning to wake myself up. Once I’m awake I jump out of bed. I jump on the couch, however, usually when I’m exhausted and want to flake watching a movie or something. So I have trained my body to sleep on the couch and wake up in bed. Knowing this, I reprogrammed myself by getting out of bed as soon as my alarm goes off and scrolling through social media on my couch. Now my mind knows bed is for sleep. It has worked. My pleasure.

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