The NZGDA Board for 2015/2016
29 July 2015

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 at AUT University, Auckland.

Chairperson, Stephen Knightly

Stephen is Managing Director of serious games and gamification studio InGame in Auckland and has long been active in the Auckland and New Zealand game development industry.  He has a successful marketing and communications career in New Zealand and overseas, working with the likes of Xbox, Microsoft, Facebook, IBM, Fonterra, University of Waikato, Auckland University and several New Zealand video games studios.

Stephen founded the Auckland Game Developers Meetups in 2008, which have now grown to 180-200 attendees every month and became a NZGDA-organised activity.  He organised the first Global Game Jams in Auckland in 2010 and 2011. He also helped run the (now defunct) Playmaker NZ forums and online community, before becoming Chairperson of the NZGDA in 2011-2013 then again for 2015.

At InGame, Stephen’s team have produced behaviour change and educational games for the ACC, Dairy NZ, University of Auckland and NZ Fire Service.  He has worked closely with film and TV industry, and produced transmedia game apps for TVNZ’s Our First Home and a music management game with NZ On Air and Kiwi musicians.

As Chairperson of the NZGDA Stephen (and others) champion the economic, cultural, educational and entertaining role of video games to the public, industry, media and government.  Stephen has relationships on behalf of the NZGDA with NZTE, Callaghan Innovation, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, NZTech, WeCreate, NZ Film Commission, Film Auckland, SPADA, Ministry of Culture and Heritage, The ICEHouse, Creative HQ and more. He has spoken about gaming’s potential at TEDxAuckland, the UltraFastBroadband Summit, SPADA Summit 2015, ICT Auckland, IITP seminars, MBIE’s Tapping Talent Seminars, Social Media Club Auckland, Digital Day Out and more.

Contact with questions, suggestions and opportunities for NZ game developers.

Danu Abeysuriya

Danu is CEO and founder of Rush Digital – a tech-creative firm based in Auckland that creates amazing digital experiences for amazing brands. He is a natural technologist, showing extraordinary aptitude in software engineering and computer systems. Danu understands and can communicate how technology can be applied to great effect. Danu founded Rush Digital at the age of 23, establishing it as a mobile-focused video game technology company.

Sri Lankan born, spending his early life in Africa, Danu and his family settled in South Auckland in the 90’s. Danu earned a Software Engineering degree from the University of Auckland. His multi-cultural background fostered a friendly demeanour, good sense of humour and relate-ability.

Danu is also a co-founder of the P3 Foundation, a non-profit that mobilises youth to eradicate extreme poverty by achieving the UN MDG’s. Danu deeply believes in a better world and his passion for technology continues to fuel his entrepreneurial drive.

Danu has a BE Software (Hons.) University of Auckland, a MIT Sloan Certificate “Entrepreneurship Development Programme” 17 years of C++ and OpenGL experience (~8yrs commercial).

Joe Chang

I am currently an indie developer who is looking to create a sustainable business from game development. I’ve developed games for 2 years and have recently focused on PC/XBOne platforms. Our first PC/XB title is Phantasmal, a survival horror roguelike, which won the Kiwi Game Starter Award (KGS) for 2014.

Since the KGS, Phantasmal was successfully Kickstarted, greenlit on steam and launched in Steam Early Access. We’ve also been accepted into the Xbox ID programme and were featured in the Xbox E3 sizzle trailer. For media, we have had articles in IGN, PCGamer, Bloody Disgusting, RPS. Our game has been played by noteworthy you tubers and streamers including Pew die pie and H20 delirious.

Prior to game development, I was a test manager for various corporations as well as being an active member of the Auckland Testing Professional Network. I’m passionate about the local game dev scene, as well as having the professional experience and drive to get things done.

Currently, I am already assisting Ben Kenobi with organizing this years Armageddon Indie Section as well as Gamacon in Mexico.

James Everett

I want to help grow the NZGDA through engagement with the development community, having witnessed, and been involved with, the great strides groups in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal have made by bringing together the diverse talents in their respective scenes. Throughout my career I have had the privilege to meet many wonderful people who have had big impacts on their local communities, and I am excited to invite them to share their experiences with New Zealand studios. I have also seen first hand how government organizations at the federal and provincial level in Canada interact with game industry, and I hope that experience can be of assistance in future NZGDA endeavours.

I’ve been a game designer since 2001 and have shipped titles in a wide variety of genres on many platforms. I started my career in Vancouver, BC, where I also co-founded the Vancouver chapter of the IGDA, before moving to Canada’s other major development hub, Montreal, QC. In Montreal I co-founded the local PechaKucha chapter and began speaking at conferences like MIGS and GDC. In 2008 I met some of the team from Sidhe and moved to Wellington, where I had a great couple of years working on titles like Shatter and fell in love with the city. Friends from Canada lured me to Toronto in 2010 to help build the new Ubisoft studio and ship our first game, Splinter Cell Blacklist. After some time leading a new team there I was drawn back to New Zealand to join the incredible new team at Magic Leap. I’m very excited about not having to endure another Toronto winter!

Ben Kenobi

Ben Kenobi has a background in architecture and game design, and teaches in the Bachelor and Masters of Creative Technologies programmes at Colab. 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 the aesthetics of online community systems.

Personal Goals

To create more game related opportunities and pathways within New Zealand by diversifying the landscape of the NZ gaming industry and validating the New Zealand games community on a global scale.

Personal Strategies

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

2. Create new entrepreneurial pathways for new and independent game makers through govt and private funding policy changes, sponsored indie funds 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:

Current Projects

2014-2015 NZGDA Outcomes

Farah Khalaf

I’m currently a student at AUT studying Bachelor of Digital Design. I am very passionate about our local New Zealand game development industry as well as the international game development scene.

I consider myself to be active in the Auckland game development community, and enjoy dedicating my time to organise and help out with events. Recently, I ran a game design workshop for children at Papakura Library, and hope to be running more in the future. As a board member, I would like to work towards organising more local events such as game jams and workshops. I think it is awesome seeing the community get together and work collaboratively on games, and wish to make this happen more often. I’m also interested in managing NZGDA activity on social media – especially during events, and having weekly interactive twitter sessions with NZ game devs.

Edwin Lim

I am a partner at Hudson Gavin Martin, a leading boutique technology and intellectual property law firm, and am a current NZGDA committee member. I have specialised in technology, media and IP law for over 16 years. My main areas of practice are technology and IP development, licensing, commercialisation and protection. I have worked with many clients in various industry sectors including the software, gaming, media and entertainment sectors.

I enjoy helping New Zealand software businesses succeed and would like to see the New Zealand gaming industry grow and be included as part of this success. With this goal in mind, I would like to continue to contribute to the NZGDA and the committee by providing another perspective on issues that affect the New Zealand gaming industry, providing governance and legal advice to the committee, lobbying our members’ interests, helping with the organisation of NZGDC, presenting to members on legal issues, sponsoring the KiwiGameStarter, and connecting the NZGDA with other industry associations that I am involved in, such as the New Zealand Software Association and GridAKL.

I have a passion for technology and games. At a professional level, in addition to my law degree, I have a BCom(Hons) degree majoring in Information Systems, so understand the technical, commercial and legal issues involved in technology projects. At a personal level, I have always had an interest in games and have gone through generations of consoles and gaming devices – from my Commodore 64, Amiga 500 and Atari Lynx right through to today’s generation of sophisticated gaming technology. My only challenge is finding the time to play them!

I am also an executive committee member of the New Zealand Software Association and the Secretary of the New Zealand Middle East Business Council.

Mario Wynands

Mario Wynands is the Managing Director and co-founder of PikPok, a leading publisher across mobile, tablet, and desktop. In his 18 years at the New Zealand based company, he has led studio operations, built a successful game portfolio and overseen the creation of many engaging console titles including Shatter®, GripShift®, and Speed Racer The Videogame, as well as multiple hits in the smartphone and tablet space including Flick Kick® Football, Into the Dead® and the BAFTA nominated Super Monsters Ate My Condo. Wynands is a graduate of Victoria University in Wellington with degrees in business management and computer science, and has studied at MIT Sloan.