Board Members

The NZ Game Developers Association is a not-for-profit organisation run by a diverse group of game developers from around New Zealand.  The board for 2015/2016 includes experienced studio managers, upcoming indie developers, students, programmers, designers, lawyers, marketers, serious games developers with experience developing for PC, console, web and smartphones.  They were elected at the Annual General Meeting of the NZ Game Developers Association on Wed 5 August 2015 at AUT University, Auckland.

Feel free to contact any of the board members with suggestions or questions.  Here are the candidates’ statements and biographies from the last AGM.

Chairperson, James Everett

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I am a lead game designer with Magic Leap in Wellington, co-ordinator of social meetup Wellingtaru, and a current NZGDA board member. I’ve bee a game developer for nearly 15 years, working at studios across Canada and in New Zealand. During my first year on the NZGDA board I have coordinated the judging of the GDC Scholarship program, researched and recommended a new voting system for the upcoming elections, and I’ll be coordinating this year’s KiwiGameStarter.

I’m standing for Chairperson of the NZGDA in order to lead the following initiatives:

Update of the NZGDA Constitution

Facilitate an update of the NZGDA constitution to:

  • ● Move board elections from August to April, to ensure that the board is well established prior to NZGDC.
  • ● Require distribution of minutes from each board meeting, so that members have more visibility into the activities of the board.
  • ● Begin a discussion around 2 year terms for board members, with half of the board being up for election every 12 months.
  • ● And any other items the board and membership wish to bring forward for consideration.

 

Update the NZGDA Membership System: Update the NZGDA membership system to provide game developers with a page on NZGDA.com to manage their contact details and verify their membership status. This will allow the organisation to accurately track its membership count, and be sure that our communications are reaching all members.

Broader Community Engagement: New Zealand game developers have a lot to offer their local communities, and the NZGDA can be an excellent catalyst for those discussions. I foresee initiatives like GameDevs go to School, where developers can visit educational institutions to share what game development is all about. Programs like this can encourage young people to consider games as a career, and help the industry diversify our talent pipeline early, when it matters most.

Secretary, Joe Chang

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I want to help grassroots indie developers and students become successful/self-sustaining in the New Zealand game development community.

Description: As a relatively new indie myself, I know just how hard it is to get somewhere in making games.  Having released games commercially, I’ve learned that there are many moving parts to having a sustainable studio.  I’d like to nurture a positive, supportive environment where we can share our collective knowledge and all be very successful!

Background: I started making games in 2012 and I’ve been playing games as early as I can remember. Games are my greatest passion! Previously, I worked in corporate IT as a software tester and then a team leader/test manager. After winning a few games competitions including the inaugural Kiwi Game Starter, I decided that I wanted to give back to the community by joining the NZGDA board last year.

Achievements:

Started The Arcade Auckland (TAA): TAA is a very successful shared space for indie game devs to work together and collaborate as well as a means to interface with the public. We currently have 2 venues: a corporate space for day-to-day work and a public facing venue at MOTAT for public events and user testing.  I arranged the corporate space after the other indies stated they needed better facilities (e.g. flexible opening hours, parking, aircon, security, better location etc)

Since its inception TAA has grown to become very popular with indies and students alike.  I spearheaded the original setup and currently manage the community and venue. My personal dream is to turn TAA into a central hub for independent game development!

Refined many internal processes of the NZGDA. I’ve introduced many systems to the association including implementing Xero as our main accounting system, installing google apps, and setting up our interim forum.

Acted as a Representative at Casual Connect Asia. I went to Singapore earlier this year and spoke to many publishers and other partners to bring home funding options to other indies.  I established many valuable contacts that will be useful for our community in future.

 

Tara J Brannigan

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Tara isn’t overly fond of writing bios for herself in the third person. If you’re interested in learning more about her experience, your best bet is to check out her LinkedIn profile.

Bullet-Point Background Bio:

  • ● 10+ years in the gamedev industry (Xbox, PopCap, PikPok, Weta Workshop)
  • ● XP in a variety of roles (QA, PM, Producer, Community Marketing, Consultant, etc)
  • ● Former board member for Seattle Metals Guild, responsible for yearly symposium planning
  • ● Active advocate for diversity in the industry. Co-founder of Women in Games NZ
  • ● Writer of things, teacher of workshops, speaker at events
  • ● Creator & maintainer of the NZ Game Devs Twitter list

 

The NZ game development industry has exceptional potential. In order to succeed in the global market, NZ needs to not just make great games, but have an active, approachable presence within the larger industry. Should I be elected onto the board, my focus would be centered around improving two critical areas:

Communications: Kiwi dev teams punch above their weight and make some seriously amazing games. We all know that, but does the larger industry? Using my background in communications and social media strategy, I will work to increase the visibility of NZ game developers in the global market. Additionally, I will work to level up the NZGDA member communications strategy via basic process improvements.

Inclusivity in the Industry: Innovation and a diversity of ideas are critical to the long term success of the industry. NZ has the opportunity to stand out as a champion for a more welcoming, inclusive industry. Building a supportive community is the first step; Actively helping to create the opportunities and initiatives that will foster growth is crucial. With my background in building inclusive communities, I am confident I will have a positive impact in this area.

Any questions? Feel free to drop me a line @kindofstrange!

Niamh Fitzgerald

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Niamh has been a gamer literally since before she could walk. She completed a BSc (Hons) in Computer Science at Otago University, and worked as a programmer briefly before a 4 year stint in a government IT sector in a variety role. Niamh has worked as contractor Project Manager for the last 3 years and is also currently studying game art and design at Media Design School in Auckland.

She specializes in filling gaps in projects, and being the organised glue that keeps things together and running smoothly. Niamh would bring a unique perspective to the board as a current student with existing industry experience. If you want to read more, check out her LinkedIn profile or hit her up on Twitter @niasphinx.

The highlights:

  • ● Unusual half programmer-half artist hybrid
  • ● Experienced project manager and general gap-filler in projects
  • ● Actively involved in Women in Games NZ, and Women studying games (Australasian)

 

Goals:

  • ● Promote inclusiveness and diversity in games industry across New Zealand
  • ● Facilitate more students to actively engage in the local industry during their studies
  • ● Assist with management of  NZGDA events, workshops and game jams

Ben Kenobi

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Ben Kenobi has a background in architecture and game design, and is employed at Colab and teaches in the Bachelor and Masters of Creative Technologies and Art & Design programmes at AUT. After completing a Masters in Art and Design in the area of game environment design and story implementation he worked for 2 years as a game designer at Gameloft Auckland and is currently working on a PhD project on game-play aesthetics.

Personal Strategies

1. Nurture a supportive and inclusive local game dev community through events, meetups and online dialogue to:

  • ● Provide networks to industry partners, academic institutions, funding partners and the NZGDAboard members.
  • ● Develop a unique NZ voice by promoting inter-disciplinary approaches to game development.
  • ● Facilitate industry partnerships with game research projects.
  • ● Represent the creative and humanitarian gaming community.

 

2. Create new entrepreneurial pathways for new and independent game makers through govt and private funding policy changes, grass-roots funding and incubation through the Arcade and industry exposure at events and online.

3. Promote a unique NZ game dev industry through events and online representation on a global scale to:

  • ● Increase the world-wide cultural credibility of all NZ game related projects.
  • ● Promote a unique NZ game industry.

 

Current Projects

  • ● #AKLgamedev Meetup Organizer and member of the NZ Game Developers Meetup Organizers group
  • ● NZGDC Lead Organizer 2014 – 2016
  • ● KiwiJam Lead Organizer 2013 – present
  • ● WOPAW Co-Organizer
  • ● NZ Festival of Games Initiative – Coordinator
  • ● Road to GDC Initiative – Coordinator
  • ● Support of the development of The Arcade Auckland
  • ● Restructure of NZGDA operational model

 

Other Past Outcomes

  • ● Digital NatioNZ 2014 – ‘Homegrown’ Booths Coordinator and MC
  • ● Armageddon 2014 – ‘Kiwi Made Games’ Booths Coordinator
  • ● Govt relations: Visit with Hon Amy Adams, and various interviews and statements throughout the year.
  • ● Studio managers meeting – co-chair

Stephen Knightly

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I am the previous Chairperson of the NZGDA and would like to serve on the Board this year to ensure a smooth handover and continuity.

In my day job I’m Managing Director of serious games and gamification studio InGame in Auckland and have consulted to or helped out several other New Zealand game studios and projects. We’ve made serious games for ACC, NZ Fire Service, Diary NZ and more. I’ve previously worked in the tech industry for  the likes of Xbox, Microsoft, Facebook, IBM, Fonterra and several universities.

I have been Chairperson of the Association from 2011-2013 then again for 2015/2016. My involvement in the industry includes founding the Auckland Game Developers Meetups in 2008, organising the first Global Game Jams in Auckland in 2010 and 2011, running the first NZGDC in 2012, coordinating our annual industry survey, and launching the KiwiGameStarter in 2014. All of these activities have since been picked up by other people and I’m confident the Association is well prepared for the future.

As a NZGDA Board member for the next year I’m particularly interested in continuing to develop programmes that support games entrepreneurs, support serious games and educational games, and to advocate for our sector with government agencies, the wider creative sector and sponsors.

Andrew Lamb

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Andrew is the co­founder and lead artist of PC games developer Camshaft Software. Previously a part of the booming Melbourne games scene, Camshaft moved to Wellington in 2014 and has since grown to a 6 person studio in Petone, working on Early Access title “Automation: The Car Company Tycoon Game”. Andrew also co­founded the Game Developers of Wellington meetup group in 2014, and for the past 2 years has been collaborating with Blair Willems to run monthly meetups with presentations from local and international games industry speakers. He is also one of the organizers of Global Game Jam Wellington.

Background
  • ●Founder of successful small PC games developer Camshaft Software
  • ●Co­Founder/Organizer of Game Developers of Wellington
  • ●Co­Organizer of Global Game Jam Wellington

 

Things he wants to want to do with the NZGDA

  • ● Apply lessons from the success of the Melbourne industry to help build a thriving industry in NZ
  • ● Continue growing a friendly, supportive and useful game developer community in Wellington, and collaborate with community meetups in other cities.
  • ● Create more communication and collaboration between NZ and Australian organizations such as the GDAA and IGDA chapters.
  • ● Build more initiatives to help graduates create successful small studios (incubators etc.)
  • ● Encourage communication between industry and education providers around what a good games industry education should be and how to provide good employees.
  • ● Campaign for more government support for the games industry, particularly around opening up film style grants to games.

Michael Vermeulen

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Michael is an indie game developer and co-founder of Group pug as well as a lecturer at Media Design School. He teaches game design, game ethics and guides students through their final year game production.

He has previously worked at Ubisoft in Germany as a game designer. In Germany he was also involved with the Nordrhein Westfalen Game Developers community, where the focus was on bringing game developers together to share knowledge and inspire each other. He is also a founding member of IGDA New Zealand and still acts as the facilitator for the organisation. Finally, he also grows an epic beard.
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Background
  • ● Making games since he was a wee little boy
  • ● Studied programming and traditional art
  • ● Game Designer at Ubisoft Blue Byte (Anno Online, Champions of Anteria)
  • ● Lecturer at Media Design School
  • ● Founding member of IGDA New Zealand
  • ● Co-founder of indie game studio Group Pug

 

His goals

  • ● Promote diversity and equal representation in the New Zealand games industry.
  • ● Facilitate epic cooperation between NZGDA and IGDA NZ to further put the New Zealand’s games industry on the map.
  • ● Encourage sharing knowledge between developers even more.
  • ● Provide guidance and encouragement to newcomers in the industry, especially in terms of entrepreneurship.
  • ● Bring together talented people from different industries to work together on games.

Mario Wynands

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As long time participant in local industry, and as a founding and ongoing board member of the NZGDA, I’m committed to helping build a commercially sustainable ecosystem here, focusing on the challenges that  NZ developers regularly face in finding success including talent development and recruitment, access to capital, establishing international relationships, and depth of business and marketing experience.

I’m a co-founder and the Managing Director of PikPok (www.pikpok.com), a Wellington based game developer and publisher. In business for over 19 years, we’ve found critical and commercial success in the creation and digital publishing of games such as Shatter, Flick Kick Football, Into the Dead, Rival Stars Basketball, and the BAFTA nominated Monsters Ate My Condo.  I am also a graduate of Victoria University in Wellington with degrees in business management and computer science, and have studied at MIT Sloan in Boston.

Andrew Stairs
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After visiting Melbourne for the international games week in 2015, I came back to New Zealand with a renewed sense of purpose and a vision on how I could best help the New Zealand game dev community grow. A few weeks later (with the help of Rox Flame) we had turned a dusty old furniture graveyard into what is now Wellington’s only game-dev specific co-working studio. Let’s do more of this, yeah?

Background

  •  ● 10+ years in the games industry (Sidhe/PikPok/indie)
  • ● BAFTA Nominated Lead Artist for Super Monsters ate my condo (PikPok)
  • ● 10+ commercially released games (PS2/Wii/PSP/PS3/XBOX360/iOS/Android)
  • ● 20+ commercially released assets packs (Unity Asset store/Unreal marketplace)
  • ● Founder/Director of indie game developer escpodgamesCo-Founder/Director of Synty Studios a successful 3D game asset publisher
  • ● Co-Founder/Director of LevelUp Wellington a shared game dev working space in Wellington (email me for more information)
  • ● Graduate of Massey University with a degree in Visual Communication design (first class hons)
  • ● Creator/Administrator of the NZ game dev Slack chat (email me if you would like to join)
  • ● NZGDA GDC 2016 Scholarship recipient

 

As a NZGDA board member I would aim to:

  • Build a stronger community – Continue to grow LevelUp Wellington with a focus on creating a community to share knowledge and help game developers become successful.

  • Strengthen communication – Continue to build a line of communication between the games industry and education providers and create more initiatives to help graduates become successful. Promote visibility of what the NZGDA is doing for game developers.

  • Find more support – Champion more government support opportunities for the game developers