IGEA celebrates the 2023 SMART program recipients
IGEA is excited to announce and celebrate the 10 emerging game developers who are entering the 2023 SMART Program thanks to the generosity of City of Port Phillip, Samurai Punk and many members of the local and international games industry.
The SMART program is a tailored four-month mentorship and residency program designed to create career pathways and support the growth of emerging talent and underrepresented peoples within the Australian games industry. The 2023 recipients will have direct access to a collaborative workspace, helmed by Samurai Punk and filled with some of Melbourne’s most exciting independent game studios.
The 2023 program was again made possible by the generous support of the City of Port Phillip and their innovative Games Action Plan. Through the Games Action Plan, the City of Port Phillip fosters local games development, provides opportunities for equitable access to creative communities, and supports increased representation of marginalised groups and emerging talent in Melbourne’s games industry.
Heather Cunsolo, Mayor of Port Phillip reported “Port Phillip is home to a thriving games sector which has already become an integral part of both our City’s economy and arts and creative industries. The SMART Program closely aligns with our Council’s Games Action Plan 2020-24, which has Port Phillip positioned to become Victoria’s games capital.
We know that video games are a powerful form of creative expression. That’s why we’re proud to continue our support for the SMART Program, which gives opportunities for emerging young creators to tell their stories through game development and kickstart their career in the games industry. We can’t wait to see the fantastic opportunities and projects that will emerge.”
IGEA would like to thank City of Port Phillip for their continued support of diverse and emerging talent in the game development community and Samurai Punk for giving this program a home.
Ceri Hutton, Director of Industry Development and Programs at IGEA stated, “It is vital that IGEA continually creates connections and resources for emerging game developers. The SMART program has proven to be an effective way of opening the door for diverse and emerging talent so they can gain entry into this highly creative sector. Previous graduates of the program have successfully secured jobs, acquired funding and gone on to achieve great things! As the local game development industry grows, it is our intention to ensure this program continues to grow with it.”
In addition to the mentorship and residency, the SMART Program also includes two free major events that the entire Melbourne game development community can enjoy. Taking place on July 24th, the first event is a talk session on effectively designing a game development studio with industry expert Jason Della Rocca, followed by industry networking.
The 2023 SMART Program Recipients:
Alex Beaty (They/Them)
Alex Beaty is an emerging game developer from rural Victoria with a background in education and writing. From a young age, it was games that allowed them to explore the world, yet it was only at RMIT University that Alex actually realised they could make their own games.
Recently, Alex got their first part-time role as a community manager for Moonlight In Garland. Along the way, they have also gained experience in games journalism, streaming, content creation, events management and glitter acquisition.
In the future, they aspire to work full-time in narrative or production though they feel confident that their generalist skill set will also be an asset in any studio. They’d also like to travel the world visiting other game development hubs similar to Melbourne to learn and grow their own practice. Outside of games, Alex has a fondness for horror movies, scrolling TikTok, and rehoming spiders.
Alex Murphy (They/Them or He/Him)
Alex is a driven and dedicated Character Artist who’s worked heavily in the Canberra game developer space tackling realistic and stylized projects. They graduated from AIE in 2020 with an Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media, Animation, Interactive Technology, Video Graphics and Special Effects. As of 2022, Alex has been giving back to the AIE community by training students to master their VFX skills.
Alex is passionate about the human aspect of all the media they both consume and design, and enjoys the incredibly satisfying process of developing a simple sphere into a fully fledged character.
Some of the projects that inspire Alex are the high fidelity works of artists like Rafael Grassetti on God of War, Frank Tzen on The Last of Us, and Marcin Blaszczak on Cyberpunk 2077 and the Witcher 3. Alex aspires to work on a project of similar style and tone someday.
Andy Karalis (Any Pronouns)
Andy is a multidisciplinary artist and independent game maker with a fondness for small, evocative experiences and games that go jump & bump.
Their work tends to be novel and playful, often with a focus on unusual inputs and awkward motion. They experiment in all areas of game development, utilizing a broad skillset to create 2D and 3D works and board games. Andy’s experience with programming, art, sound and design informs their view of games as a holistic and interconnected art practice.
Andy is also a huge proponent of rapid prototyping and experimental games and helps to run an annual game-a-week workshop for local developers. Andy is usually found working on many small games at once, trying new things and chasing fresh inspiration wherever they find it.
Daisy Chan (She/Her)
Daisy Chan is the creative director, producer, UI/UX designer and co-founder of the emerging game development studio Geek Latte. Daisy and the team are working on their first full-release game, Card Retrieve, a twin-stick action roguelite where you play as a canine magician wielding magic cards and magic tricks to attack, deceive, and escape from the feline-feudal Japan period.
Daisy graduated from HKBUCIE in 2017 with a design associate degree and a bachelor’s of Games and interactivity in 2020 at Swinburne. She then started her early career as a freelance designer and a mentor at the Lab Network in late 2022. She is passionate about simplifying UI and UX to produce smooth gameplay experiences and ensure a satisfying game feel. She has created a few small games in the past years and especially enjoys designing light-hearted cute comedy games that younger audiences can enjoy, including illegal Alien and Cheese Chase.
Emma McCaw (She/Her)
Emma is a passionate producer and QA tester based in Melbourne, Australia. She recently graduated with a Bachelor of Games Development (Game Design) at SAE Melbourne. She is working on a series of mini-projects with two other game dev graduates and plans to increase the team size as each project develops.
Her ambitious lifelong career goal is to gain knowledge in all aspects of the game industry to improve her skills in production and QA. Over the years, she plans to delve deeper into accessibility and develop fun, innovative, engaging, and accessible games that all players can enjoy.
Irini Melas (She/Her)
Irini is a May 2023 Bachelor of Animation graduate pursuing a career in the Games Industry! Originally from the Northern Territory, Irini specializes in creative direction, game project management, and 2D mediums.
In 2021, Irini relocated to Victoria to study at SAE Melbourne and pursue her dream career in the Games Industry with charm! Creating high-quality media that resonates with communities and brings joy, is at the core of her passion. Her personal project, Foodomina, a narrative-driven 2D pixel art RPG, has been a driving force for Irini’s career endeavours.
She is confident in her ability to creatively develop, conceptualize, animate, and design, and has a strong desire to continue learning and growing. With five years of experience in conceptualizing unique narratives, characters, and environments across various creative mediums, Irini is dedicated to developing narrative-driven and innovative media that makes a lasting impact!
Jae Stuart (They/Them)
Jae Stuart is a programmer, game designer, narrative designer, curator and event organiser from Lutruwita. They are the co-founder of Serenade, a collective which has put on popup game exhibitions in Eora and Naarm. Jae’s projects have been showcased at Amaze, GDC and SXSW.
Jae collaborated with Cécile Richard to create The Freeplay Zone an interactive browser-based project which allowed Freeplay Festival attendees to gather together online during the pandemic. With Ruqiyah of ub4q they created My Lil Fanfic which was nominated for awards at Freeplay and Play by Play.
They’ve spoken at games conferences including GCAP, NZGDC and Freeplay. Recently they organised the event program for Pride at Play Queer Games Exhibition with a program that included poetry readings, a Queer game developer panel, a narrative design workshop they ran and a fireside chat with AGDA award winning developers Fuzzy Ghost that they hosted.
Sunny Tandoc (They/Them)
Sunny (or Sun) Tandoc is a multi-disciplinary artist and animator located in Melbourne, Australia. Sunny graduated with a Bachelors of Design (Animation and Interactive Media) from RMIT in 2021. As an animator, they specialise in 2D animation and compositing. They have a particular interest in working in mixed media.
They are the creative director of an up-and-coming experimental and cultural games project supported by the Museum of the Living West. The game is set in a fantasy version of Footscray and incorporates real life elements of Footscray’s rich cultural diversity, LGBTQ+ community and history.
Tyler Hilder (She/Her)
Tyler is a 2D digital artist who adores the aesthetic stylings of bygone eras. She got her diploma of Game Design from JMC in 2017, and fills her time with mysteries, westerns, history and art.
She is passionate about making games for women and underrepresented demographics. In high school she became obsessed with video game artists like Kumiko Suekane, Kinu Nishimura, and Ayami Kojima, and hasn’t wanted to do anything else since.
William Hinz (They/Them)
William Hinz is an award-winning narrative designer and playwright, with a Masters of Writing for Performance from the Victorian College of the Arts. They are a recipient of the Orloff Family Charitable Trust for Excellence and an inaugural La Boite X APT grantee. In 2020, after the New York premiere of their work “Guerilla Sabbath”, they were listed as one of playbill’s “34 LGBTQI+ Artists to Keep an Eye On”. William is fascinated by queer history and the lack thereof, non-linear debauchery, and queers as perpetrators of violence. Also… Queers. Their work has been performed globally, taught in the Queensland State Syllabus, and published by Australian Plays Transform.
As a playwright turned narrative designer, William is utterly enamoured with the potential of narrative in games. To them, every game is its own universe with its own set of rules for how story operates within. Is there text? Is there not? Is there dialogue? Is it voiced? Is it linear? Non-linear? Static? Malleable? Is it everything above or nothing at all? There’s no scaffold for the perfect game, only a demand for reckless curiosity and relentless care. And that, to William, couldn’t be more wonderfully queer.
About City of Port Philip’s Games Action Plan:
City of Port Phillip’s vision is to be the Games Capital of Victoria. Delivering on this vision means that the broad range of creative businesses, players, artists, and creative producers find a home in Port Phillip, and that Council’s priorities, resources, and programs support their activities.
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About Samurai Punk:
Samurai Punk is an Australian game development studio, based in Melbourne and known for weird titles such as Screencheat, The American Dream and JUSTICE SUCKS. Founded by Nicholas McDonnell and Winston Tang in 2014, the Samurai Punk team has been recognised for their offbeat game design and love of all things strange.
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IGEA (Interactive Games & Entertainment Association) is the peak industry association representing the voice of Australian and New Zealand companies in the computer and video games industry. IGEA supports the business and public policy interests of the games industry, through advocacy, research and education programs.
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