Jason Hawreliak (Ph.D., 2013) is an Assistant Professor of Game Studies at Brock University’s Centre for Digital Humanities. He is also a co-founder and editor of the online game studies periodical First Person Scholar.
When I started my PhD in English in 2007 it didn’t occur to me that video games could be a legitimate academic pursuit. I entered the program planning to study postcolonial Canadian literature but thanks to some great faculty in the English department I was encouraged to combine my interests in rhetoric and video games. My dissertation looked at how video games fulfill some basic psychological functions, such as the need to feel important, and how video games are used for persuasive purposes.
After completing my dissertation I received a SSHRC Mitacs Accelerate postdoctoral fellowship with Neil Randall of the Games Institute and a startup company, InsightNG. The Mitacs program is meant to foster close relationships between academia and industry and it was a great experience. I got to conduct research in a “real world” setting, and hopefully helped out the company too. InsightNG is developing a powerful digital concept mapping tool and they brought me in to help improve user experience through gamification. Startup culture is much, much different from academia and it’s an experience I’ll never forget.
Although I’ve moved from UWaterloo to Brock, I continue to work with the Games Institute in many areas. The Games Institute is this wonderful mashup of people from the Humanities, Engineering, Computer Science, and industry. There are a lot of really exciting things happening there. Basically if it has to do with games, we’re interested in it. The Games Institute project which takes up most of my time though is being an editor for First Person Scholar, an online game studies periodical I helped start a couple of years ago with some fellow UWaterloo grad students. FPS is trying to provide a venue for timely but informed conversations surrounding game studies. We want to occupy the middle space between academic journals, which are very slow moving, and online discussions on games, which can sometimes lack context. In a fast moving field like game studies, we believe that you need timely but rigorous discourse. I’m really proud of how FPS has grown over the past two years and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
As for my new position at Brock, I’ve only been there for a few months but I couldn’t be happier. It’s really my dream job. I get to research and teach games, work with brilliant people, and I’m helping to develop courses for our new program in game design and development. The academic job market is very tough right now, especially for us in the Humanities, so I feel very lucky to be where I am right now. I can thank my time at UWaterloo and the Games Institute for that.