MCV Pacific Women In Games: Dr. Christy Dena

Joel Van Daal
MCV Pacific Women In Games: Dr. Christy Dena

For over twenty years, Christy has been an inspiration to Women across the industry.

Although she was heavily into theatre as a performer and writer, Christy started her full-time professional work as producer of digital effects for television commercials and feature films in the early 1990s. Whilst there, she introduced the company to making interactive projects on CD-Roms and website creation. Christy worked on a number of projects, but then made a big career shift in the early 2000s to writing and design.

Since then, under her company Universe Creation 101, Christy has been commissioned to make alternate reality games for AFTRS; commissioned to write a speech for a humanoid at Robotronica; commissioned to create an installation and app for Experimenta’s 6th International Biennial Media Art; commissioned to create a playful app for a regional town for the Creative Recovery Network; awarded a grant to create an installation for the first Digital Writing Residency at QUT’s The Cube; and commissioned to make live games for Pop Up Playground. Consulting clients include Nokia for their global alternate reality game Conspiracy for Good, Cisco for their global alternate reality game The Hunt, ABC for their national alternate reality game on climate engineering Bluebird AR.

Christy has also been commissioned to run events and alongside her own, including Transmedia Victoria, a two-day conference and workshop event to bring film, TV, theatre, and gaming professionals together (funded by Australia Council for the Arts, Screen Australia, Arts Victoria, Film Victoria, Multimedia Victoria, and the ABC; along with venue partners ACMI and the State Library of Victoria, and supporters AIMIA and GDAA). Christy started BarCampSydney, and more recently the What I Really Do series of public lectures by gaming professionals.

Dena has been nominated for and won a good handful of interactive writing awards, from the Premier’s Book Awards, Australian Writers’ Guild, International New Media Writing Prize, and Freeplay. She has also received positive critical responses but not large audiences yet. Christy tells MCV Pacific, "I’m yet to hit larger player numbers as my work has been highly experimental with a tiny promotional budgets. These awards, however, have been an encouragement to keep fighting to make better work."

She has delivered hundreds of presentations at key digital, transmedia, gaming, film, and TV events worldwide. Also delivering keynotes in LA, London, Madrid, Barcelona, and Sweden, including the First International Conference on Cross-Media Interaction Design. Other talks include events such as the Games Masters program for ACMI; Australasian Conference on Interactive Entertainment; Freeplay Independent Games Festival; the Melbourne and Brisbane chapters of the IGDA; Pop Up Playground in Melb, and the Joint International Cybergames and Interactive Entertainment Conference.

Christy has delivered talks to corporations, organisations and community groups, such as Nokia Research Labs in Finland; Microsoft’s Social Computing Symposium in USA; O’Reilly Media’s Social Web FOO Camp in the USA; and Web Standards Group in Sydney.

Mentoring is also close to Christy's heart, having mentored film and TV professionals around the world, guiding their interactive projects at industry labs, including the Storyworld Conference in San Francisco, Crossover Documentary Lab run by Film Victoria, XMediaLab: Film Extended funded by Screen Australia, the Pixel Lab in Wales, the Crossover Indigenous Lab held in Sydney, and LAMP for AFTRS.

She was commissioned co-write The Writers’ Guide to Making a Digital Living for the Australia Council for the Arts along with tour around Australia MCing events with Chris Avellone; co-wroting the IGDA ARG SIG Whitepaper, having given many talks at the Brisbane Chapter of the IGDA, was a contributor to the IGDA Perspectives Newsletter, and ran a special Melb IGDA-Transmedia Victoria meetup that attracted the largest attendance at the time (over 250). Christy's written chapters for or been cited in many books, including Space Time Play: Synergies between Computer Games; Pervasive Gaming; Comics for Film, Games & Animation; and the Electronic Book Review. A big moment for me was being interviewed by Cara Ellison for her book Embed With Games: A Year on the Couch with Game Developers. She is a member of The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (Emmys);The Australian Writers’ Guild (and their Games & Interactive Advisory Committee), and the Entertainment Technology Center Press and has been on many boards, including Freeplay, Aphids, and dLux Media Arts.

A prolific speaker, Dena has spoken at the International Women in Digital Media Summit in Canada; given talks at Geek Girl Dinners in Melbourne; was commissioned by fellow Women In Game listee, Leena van Deventer, to write for and present at WIDGET; has co-run game design workshops with Truna (chapter lead of Brisbane IGDA) for girls and women at the World Science Festival and other events; and mentored a female high-school student on making a game.

In her current work, Christy is developing SAE's curriculum, marketing and staff development to ensure they attract and keep more female game developers in education.

Christy is currently the Chair of Games across Australia and Dubai, and Department Coordinator of Games for Brisbane at the SAE Creative Media Institute; co-organiser of the International Digital Games Research Association of Australia Queensland Chapter; co-organiser of the Forward Slash Story lab held in Costa Rica for storytellers working in tech.

As Director of Universe Creation 101 she is writing and designing an animated short film and digital game in partnership with an animation house in Sydney as well as writing a book on designing multiple creative projects as systems. Christy has two card games on the backburner the moment: a social deduction game inspired by the Sopranos title Boss Bluff, and a Macgyver-inspired game where you have to use whatever is around the house to fulfil spy missions called DIY SPY.

Speaking to MCV Pacific, Christy said, " This is first ‘top…’ list I have been on, and while I am personally conflicted about it, I am so chuffed that some of my peers have given me this virtual a pat on my back! So thank you! I am enjoying finding out about more awesome women in Australia and NZ, and I hope more women feel they can approach me now too."


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