8 Word Story

On 10th October 2017, The Queensland Writers’ Centre opened submissions for a special story competition. Called “8 Word Story”, the competition invited writers to submit a story in 8 words maximum. If selected, it would be displayed on digital billboards around Brisbane. Mine was selected, and broadcast on 24th October to multiple locations. There were over 10,000 entries.

‘Magister Ludi’ for Experimenta’s International Biennial of Media Art

Magister Ludi is a comedic game about our role in escape, that is a touring installation and is available for the iPad, and online (update: May 2015. Due to changes to Chrome where Unity web player cannot be used, view in any browser but Chrome). The game was commissioned for Experimenta’s 2015 International Biennial of Media Art: Recharge, is Finalist for the ‘Digital Narrative’ category of the 2016 WA Premier’s Book Prize, was Finalist for the 2015 International New Media Writing Prize (UK), Exhibited at Babycastles (NYC) for Cara Ellison’s 2015 ‘Embed with Games’ book launch, and was Official Selection for the 2014 Freeplay Independent Games Festival’s Parallels event at ACMI. “Magister Ludi” is an online game and installation that puts a twist on the escape-the-room genre with a wry narrator and design that interrogates our role in needing to escape. It is informed by my experience in getting through a PhD, getting over an abusive relationship, and getting away from poverty. It is about the thought-processes that stay with you long after the problems are around, and so you don’t truly escape until you deal with them. The title is an allusion to Herman Hesse’s Nobel-prize-winning novel “The Glass Bead Game,” and Magister Ludi plays with the idea of the conceptual game depicted in the novel. It launched in the exhibition and online in late November, 2014.

Magister Ludi is now available in the iTunes App store, and currently touring around Australia for the Experimenta tour:



Experimenta Trailer:

Freeplay Parallels Trailer:

Experimenta interview:

Project Catalogue


Christy Dena – writer, designer, director
Marigold Bartlett – visual artist
Trevor Dikes – sound designer & composer
Cameron Owen – programmer
Iain McManus – app port programmer

photo 3 (1)


Drawing on the escape-the-room phenomenon, I created a space that is about escape. However, since I wanted the emphasis to be on our role in needing to escape I changed the mechanics. Instead of solving puzzles through opening objects and moving them around to unlock puzzles, the player places objects in the room. The movement of objects is further complicated by what they mean. So the player needs to see whether adding to the room (or taking away) actually helps them or not. Indeed they’re not really escaping a room, instead they’re constructing their world in a manner that either denies their needs or places them on the path to self-sufficiency.

The full writing and interactions spreadsheets are available here (spoilers):

Room 1: MagisterLudiGame_WritingandInteractions_SchoolRoomData
Room 2: MagisterLudiGame_WritingandInteractions_BedroomData
Room 3: MagisterLudiGame_WritingandInteractions_EmptyRoomData


photo 4 (1)

Boss Bluff

A card game currently in development. Boss Bluff is a social deduction game with shifting alliances. You’re at a tense dinner where Under Bosses give speeches professing their loyalty to each other. Be the best at determining who is betraying you and you’ll triumph as the Big Boss. It is for 4 players, and play time is about 90 mins.

Prototype set-up image:


Spider & Fly

A blind spider and a young housefly team up to compete in a web art competition being held in the bucket at the back fence.

An animated short film and digital local co-op game in development, in partnership with a sydney animation house.

‘Playing Kandanga’ for Creative Recovery Network


I was commissioned by the Creative Recovery Network to create an App with the Kandanga community. I archived stories & play through the generations. The Creative Recovery Network builds experiences with artists and communities:

“A growing network of artists and cultural and community workers are taking the lead in helping their communities recover from the impact of natural disasters through creativity. The aim is to share knowledge and build a network of artists ready to support communities in meeting future challenges.”

I am worked with the Friends of Kandanga and the local school to build a playful App for locals and tourists to the area. It was soft-launched at the centenary of the local school in September, 2015.


Android app on Google Play


‘Who Left the Windows Open?!’ for Iron Game Designer

A cooperative game where you are kids in a house where the windows have been left open and pests have swarmed in. You have 3 actions per turn, moves, opening and closing doors. You’re running around trying to channel the pests (wasps, snakes, spiders, ants & mosquitos) towards each other as predators attack each other. The threat level rises each turn (nests, swarms, etc).

Colleague Ralf Muhlberger and I teamed up to participate in the 2015 IRON GAME DESIGNER Challenge run by Steve Dee, where participants have two hours to make a board game.  Problems in our competition strategy include going with the idea we were excited by rather than the idea we could produce, test, and then play in the short judging time. So we didn’t win, but we have a game that has legs!

Description of the game on the competition site:

Taking the theme as their title this was another very literal reading. Kids left at home were battling growing threats (in the case of the first and so far only deck, creepy crawlies like snakes and spiders), with the enemies being generated with constant turning decks of cards that get progressively worse. In a lovely twist, however, the kids can’t fight the threat, but only contain it or direct it. Only able to move slowly and open and close doors they need to work together to drive monsters towards each other – and figure out which will cancel out and which will get worse. This is determined by a five-way scissor-paper-rock system which judges feared might be too complicated to solve especially for the family audience the theme suggested. Like Home Intrusion, the designers felt they may have lost too much time to the tyranny of cutting and pasting, but also like Home Intrustion, the literal, immediate and relatable interpretation won points and captured imaginations.



DIY SPY is an improvisational storytelling party game for 3-18+ players. Players are carrying out cooperative mission scenarios in different rooms of your house of office, using whatever objects are around.

GO423_DIYSPY GO423Exhibition

photo (3)

Christy Dena – writing & design
Marigold Bartlett – artist

Mechanic: improvisation, storytelling
Genre: Humour
Platform(s): Board game
Audience: Party, Strangers (ice-breaker)
Playtime: 30+ minutes
Minimum Age: 12+
Theme: Spy
Player numbers: 3-18 players


It was originally conceived as a game that combines digital and live play, continuing my design interest in pervasive games. The original idea: in 5 minutes you use anything available to fulfill your missions and train to be a spy. I then adapted the format to be completely live and for over 18+ players and last about 50mins. I developed a festival version, and am developing a boardgame version.

I came up with the original idea in response to the 22Jams prompt of “make a game where you must be standing in order to play”. I didn’t have the time to create the game for the Jam, but the game stuck with me. Harry Lee of Wanderlands (who recently released their award-winning game Stickets), put out a call for collaborators on game projects. I took my game to Harry and he jumped on board encouraging the game to go ahead. We playtested the game at Harry’s Glitchmark game design event. I’ve since playtested versions at Popup Playground, JunkJam #2Playtest Saturday Afternoon in Melbourne; the GO423 Popup Exhibition at The Powerhouse in Brisbane; various homes and office buildings; a playtest event for IGDA Brisbane; with interaction design and writing students at QUT; colleagues at SAE Media Institute; players at the Boardgames & Beers Meetup (Brisbane); participants at Forward Slash Story; with design feedback from Lorraine Hopping Egan and Matt Parkes (designer of Burger Up). The name of the game was developed with contributors in the Card and Board Game Designers Guild.

It is a super fun game where everyone entertains each other. It works as an ice-breaker game, team-bonding game, and just as a party game with mates.

‘Bakers of Anarchy’ for PopUp Playground

You are a contestant in the finale of the 9th Annual Cake Decorating Championship. One of the hosts has been embroiled in a bitter buttercream scandal, and so you arrive to find an Anarchist is now running the competition. In this hands-on live game, you do whatever you can to impress the revolutionary philosopher with your anarchic cake decorating to ultimately win the championship, or the good fight.

This live game was featured at Pop Up Playground‘s 2015 Fresh Air Festival in Melbourne on the 6th and 7th of March. It combines reality tv, baking competitions, and live gaming to create an experience that facilitates progressive anarchy.

Designer: Christy Dena
The Anarchist: Richard McKenzie
The Host: Petra Elliot
Audience Wrangler: Ben McKenzie
Design Advice: David Fono, Nick Fortugno, Ben McKenzie
Client: Pop Up Playground







roaring decorating


Host with secretbusiness

picking up a kid




AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS is a comedic web audio adventure about the meaning of death for your Chrome browser, or the iPad (no-longer available on iPad as of 25th Feb, 2017). The soundtrack and code to make you own web audio tour are also available. There is also a ‘Making-Of’ diary, and the full writing script [PDF].

AUTHENTIC won the 2014 WA Premier’s Prize for “Digital Narrative”, and the 2014 Australian Writers’ Guild Award for “Interactive Media”; and was Official Selection for the 2014 Electronic Literature Organization’s Media Arts Showcase. An early prototype was Finalist for “Best Writing in a Game” Award at the 2012 Freeplay Independent Gaming Festival, the crowdfunding campaign attracted supporters from 14 countries, and we were awarded a grant from Screen Australia’s multi-platform drama fund. The University of Southern California included AUTHENTIC in their elit reading club.

The project is a playful comedy drama for your Chrome Browser or iPad. It is inspired by audio tours, radio drama, and alternate reality games. AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS is an audio drama that plays while you visit fictional places on the web.

Players follow the experience of Pathologist with a past as an Underworld Philosopher take on a bet to find the meaning of death. Despite help from her part-time Time Traveling Assistant, she finds her investigation upsets fellow Gambling Philosophers, Ticket Inspectors, Artist Assassins and the Quantum Theorist Crime Boss. Ultimately, her inability to fit in makes everyone involved…really annoyed.

“The writing, the visuals and the music created for AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS are of the highest quality and are delightful to experience”
The Conversation

“One of the most interesting uses of apps for storytelling we’ve seen in a while”
The Appside

If video killed the radio star, then an App might just revive them”
QUT Media

Christy Dena – writer, designer, producer, director
Trevor Dikes – sound designer, composer
Yangtian Li – illustrator
Craig Peebles – app programmer (iPad)
Andrey Ivanov – app programmer (Chrome browser plug-in)
Elroy – app interface & logo

Jimmy James Eaton – Narrator + Underworld Goon
Alison Richards – Pathologist
Nadia Collins – Assistant:
Adam McKenzie – New Client
Ben McKenzie – Ticket Officer + Philosopher Gambler
Stefan Taylor – Philosopher Ex
Richard McKenzie – Artist Assassin
Tegan Higginbotham – Quantum Pizzeria Waitress
Kevin J Powe – Quantum Boss + Philosopher Gambler

Full credits and more information at the project website

Full Writing Scripts [PDF]

USC elit group


‘Séance for Lost Stuff’ for PopUp Playground

Séance for Lost Stuff  is a party game for 4 or more players. You arrive at a séance to find that everyone, including yourself, can channel the spirit of a lost object. Your goal is to be the first to find the locations of your own lost objects and pass on the locations you have of others.


The current version is a live festival game. It was created for Pop Up Playground’s 2014 Fresh Air Festival to be run in the tent on Saturday night March 8th, 2014. Although this festival is run predominately outside, I felt drawn to creating an inside game. I liked the idea of doing a comedy séance, and so the idea of communing with lost objects sprung from there.

Since my last game for PUP involved cards, and the one before that involved a phone, I was keen in this game to impose a no-card and no-gadget restriction. There are bits of paper and tokens in this game, but none are especially made. Indeed, all objects are low-fi as part of the theme and aesthetic. Related to this is another aspect I was keen to explore in this game: ritual. I have previously created an experience that involved ritual and wanted to take it even further this time. The rituals in this game are influenced by common rituals in séances, and rituals my mum taught me.

Playtesters include: Deb Polson, Donna Bonde, Lois Spangler, Moya Kate, Truna, Matt Horton, and the final PUP playtesters in Melbourne on Feb 22nd.

PUP_SeancePlaytest220214_3 PUP_SeancePlaytest220214 PUP_SeancePlaytest220214_2