Play by Play.

International games festival

17th-22nd April 2017

Wellington, New Zealand

A game development summit like no other, the Play by Play conference brings game developers of all skill levels together for a full day of low-pressure learning and sharing. We aim to engage delegates with a fun, light-hearted atmosphere and have been known to have singing keynote speakers.

Safe Space Policy

Play by Play is dedicated to the safety and comfort of all attendees. Our Safe Space Policy is expected to be followed by anyone attending a Play by Play function, and may be read here.

Play by Play 2017 Conference Schedule

For more information on the speakers presenting, please see our speaker list!




"Defence Against the Dark Arts: An Intro to Games Marketing"
presented by Lauren Clinnick (Managing Director, Lumi Consulting)

Let go of your marketing-related sense of doom. In this talk, Lauren Clinnick from Lumi Consulting outlines how to create effective messaging for your game, plus efficient release strategy tips and tricks. Embrace marketing within your personal creative dev process, and begin identifying and collecting the audience that will love you, and your work. Learn high-quality, authentic yet cheap marketing skills and leave with a to-do list to get you started today.

"PINK: The use of colours within games and breaking gender norms"
presented by Brianna Fromont (Junior Artist, Aurora44)

This talk will be covering games which effectively use pink, and how these elements can be explored for development in future games. This will blend into the issue of pink being used as a gendered colour and how this idea can be broken down through a modern interactive experience.

"Non-Linear Storytelling"
presented by Nick Jones (Narrative Designer, Punk Writer Ltd.) & Charlie McDermott (Creative Producer/Technologist, Augusto)

As the technology for games is rapidly developing, so to is the demand for stronger stories. In this talk, Narrative Designer Nick Jones (Path of Exile: Fall of Oriath) and Immersive Theater producer Charlie McDermott (Generation of Z) discuss how to incorporate strong narratives into your games while still maintaining the unique non-linear approach that as near exclusive to the medium.

"A Crash Course on VR Game Design"
presented by Emre Can Deniz (Director, Opaque Space)

Utilizing lessons learned in two of our titles in production, Genesis and Earthlight, as well as our collaboration with NASA's Hybrid Reality Lab on Game/Experience Design, this talk will present first the cursory best practices for Player Experience in VR, before offering some advice and tips on how to create puzzles, game mechanics and think about player physicality when designing Virtual Reality games.

"Embracing Limitations"
presented by Mitch Cramer (Freelance Video Editor, HeavyEyed)

This talk covers limitations in game design over the years, from NES hardware to transitioning into 3D gaming and how developers used limited software to push the boundaries of creativity to deliver some of the most memorable games of all time.

"Design for the Real World"
presented by Demi Schänzel (User Experience Designer, TradeMe)

In a sense, it may be suggested that the idle acts of design we release into society no longer exist within a mere vacuum. But rather, due to the immersive nature of games, game designers (and similar kin) possess a unique chance to craft experiences that push beyond the mere fabric of imagination and escapism; designing games that advocate for genuine social change and become a part of the ever-shifting political climate that surrounds us. This talk merely asks if we're open to the possibility of bringing fresh mindful change to the world, and discusses how such a thing may even be possible.

"A Talk About Giving Talks"
presented by Claire Barilla (Ad Operations, PikPok)

We all have something to contribute but some voices need help speaking up, with this talk being inspired by a conversation had with a great game designer where he confessed how he felt too scared to do a talk and as if he had nothing worthwhile to contribute. This talk focuses on encouragement of knowledge sharing by giving some quick public speaking tips and reasons why we should not be afraid of impostor syndrome and why it is always worth sharing our knowledge.

"Fail More: An insight into the mind of a serial project starter"
presented by Tom O'Brien (Game Designer, Aurora44)

My projects folder is massive. My GitHub contributions mosaic is a tapestry of confusion. And that’s exactly the way I like it. Testing game ideas or mechanics is crucial to seeing if they are viable. However, too often do I see people clinging on to the hope that one of their ideas is that hidden goldmine. They are too afraid to share it with others in their community in fear of it being poached, developed and released to a stolen success. In this talk I will be sharing a few examples of my failed million-dollar game ideas, hopefully inciting a more open discussion about that game idea you dare not discuss.

"The Roads Not Taken: Giving players choice"
presented by Saf Davidson (Writer/Narrative Designer, Freelance)

How much agency do you have in the games you play? Do your choices mean anything in the end, and why? I want to explore how much agency players are given in various games and what that achieves for the game’s narrative and themes. Whether the game offers multiple narrative branches, cosmetic choices that lead to a static ending, or implies choice in the player simply choosing to play the game, there are many ways for games to resonate with or emotionally affect players by making them question the impact of their decisions.

"Game Genres are Broken, or 'What the Hell is an Adventure Game Anyway?'"
presented by John Kane (Game Designer/Developer, Gritfish)

Game storefronts, media sites and more break down games into roughly ten genres that separate games solely by their mechanics. This is disastrous both for games and the discussion that surrounds them. This talk aims to provide a short but deep dive into how we can right the ship and talk about games in ways that benefit everyone, by opening up discussion and making games more findable in today's overcrowded digital marketplace.

"Don't Mind If I Don't: ten ways to help your community manager help you"
presented by Victoria Kershaw (Community Manager, PikPok)

So you're making something. Cool. Now how do you get someone to care? Talk about it. Now more than ever there is an expectation of public dialogue between a business and their fans - this is where your Community Manager (CM) comes in. Your CM is your friend, your human meat-shield, your ward, and your conduit between you and the real world. Games is especially well known for having very PASSIONATE players. Players can be your most valuable assets, but can also be intimidating, critical, entitled, and sometimes downright unpleasant. This talk offers practical tips and insight into how to develop an AWESOME relationship between your team and your CM! In turn they can create positive a community to help your game thrive through building engagement, trust, put out fires and leading the cheer for your team and fans alike.

"How to Be a Great Game Artist"
presented by Mike Clephane (Managing Director & Co-Founder, Synty Studios)

Wanting to inspire up and coming game artists with a bit of his history and some solid advice that has seen him going from a senior position at Weta Digital to running his own game art production house, this talk has some solid advice from Mike for both junior and senior game artists. 

"Players as Pieces in Play"
presented by Richard Durham (Great-Grand-Lord-High-Everything, Wondertree)

How are you, the player, treated in your play? Are you a direct, reflex competitor like pong? A random number generator like in some tabletop strategy games? The god of an imaginary world in childhood backyard play? This talk asks what the role of players are in a game, and looks for inspiration in large scale games such as "street games" and "mega games" to examine the role of "player as pieces." We'll spend the latter half of the talk playing a large scale social game to illustrate.

"Burn the Bikini Armour: actionable tips for better character design"
presented by Victoria Smith (3D Artist, PikPok)

Strongly realized characters are the beating heart of many games, but they are often let down by uninspired or insulting costume choices. Characters of the female persuasion are often most affected by this, with costume design focusing on modern sex appeal over world building or believably. Using the wealth of information from the art of film and television costuming, designing outfits for your characters can be broken down into practical steps and understandable terminology. By taking a look at the worst and best of costume design in games - as well as primary sources and the basics of visual design - you can elevate your character designs and create something truly unique. Nobody wants to appear on the Worst Dressed list, so why should your game characters be any different?

"Lessons Learned: first two years as a producer in games"
presented by Jair McBain (Creative Director/Producer, Wymac Gaming Solutions, ex. GREE & Twitch)

Jair McBain brings you a tongue in cheek, no nonsense look at the hard lessons learned in his first two years as a producer in games. This talk will span a brutal, head-first dive into turning executive briefs into a cohesive game design, building the team to make the game happen and leading them into the fray, managing your managers while they try to manage you, sharpening yourself into a scope killing weapon and remaining open and vulnerable to your colleagues along the way. Running a project at any scale is challenging and formative. Herein lie the truths of one man's descent into madness and evolution into a finely tuned task-sorting game-making heathen.

"CheckPoint's Guide to Crunch and Burnout"
presented by Dr. Jennifer Hazel (Founder/Executive Director, CheckPoint)

This talk will explore two of the most important issues to tackle when looking at the mental health and wellbeing of video game developers. Isolated, poorly understood and non-unionised, the games industry falls victims to many OH&S pitfalls including widely accepted crunch culture and significant rates of burnout, which can be associated with anxiety and depression (among other things). Led by Dr Jennifer Hazel this 30 minute overview of the key topics will teach attendees how to recognise these two important phenomenons, how it can affect the individual, and what tips and techniques they can implement to try to keep themselves well.

"That's Just How We Live in My Genre"
presented by Maddi Baird (Visual Novelist, Independent)

When creating a game world, many developers rely on genre tropes to decide what goes inside -- an elven woodland village in high-fantasy, a sinister police department in noir, an enthusiastically neon corporation in cyberpunk, so on. Working within a genre is fine, but your audience doesn't live in one, and all media benefits from being relatable. This talk will look at games that have cleverly integrated elements of specific real locations into genre locations, and see how doing so can help players relate to the setting.

"How to Design Massively Multiplayer Megagames"
presented by Dr. Dillon Burke (Force Development Analyst, NZDF)

Megagames are massively multiplayer games for 30-100+ players, incorporating elements from wargaming, board, tabletop and live action roleplaying games. Megagames feature team based play, hard choices, intense time pressure on decision-making, and embrace emergent play. After being largely restricted to the UK for the last 30 years, they have been increasing in global popularity since the 2014 release of the UFO themed hit "Watch the Skies". This talk will cover some of problems in designing a good Megagame.

"Local Gaming: A Fairytale"
presented by Amy Potter (Founder, Leaping Tiger)

Once upon a time, we gathered in physically local arcades to play video games with our friends. Along came the internet, and with it, faceless multiplayer and all it's shortcomings. Many revolted, seeking out cornered off pockets of the internet with likeminded people (AKA communities), and although online multiplayer remains the most convenient way to play games with people, couch co-op games have risen in popularity over the last couple of years. We are seeing a return to the local gaming mindset, and we're now harnessing the internet to create ways to connect more meaningfully. This is the hapily-ever-after foundation Leaping Tiger ( is built on! Building community in games is so important – and we will cover that – but what is interesting right now is the effect of building alongside and activating tight-knit/local communities in games, especially with regard to the growing tournament and e-sports scene.