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Neil Randall

Associate Professor

Neil Randall

PhD, York
MA, Waterloo
BA, Guelph

Extension: 30134
Office: EC1 1327
Email:
nrandall@uwaterloo.ca

Website

Biography

I am a long-time faculty member in the English department at the University of Waterloo, Canada, and the director of the Games Institute (uwaterloo.ca/games-institute). The Games Institute was created to study game, game-driven interactions and technologies, and, in a broader scope, any form of rich, compelling engagement with digital technologies.

The Games Institute has been the focus of both my research and administration since 2010, culminating in 2012 with the awarding of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Grant to form a games research network.

Called IMMERSe (The Interactive and Multi-Modal Research Syndicate), The SSHRC-funded project establishes a network of seven universities and six industry partners to conduct research into player experience and behavior, with studies focusing on player immersion, player presence, player relationships, and player addiction. The SSHRC award is $2.55M, with cash and in-kind contributions from academic and industry partners increasing the total award to $5.8M. Collaborative, multi-disciplinary, and multi-institutional from its inception, the network includes researchers from the arts, the social sciences, engineering, and computer science.

IMMERSe and the Games Institute have the goals of helping to drive game research, immersion/experience research, academic-industry collaboration in games, extensive training of graduate and undergraduate students for participation in academic research and industry careers, and extensive outreach with communities, governments, the media, and game companies large and small.

To this end, the Games Institute has initiated projects outside the SSHRC Partnership Grant, including a five-year project working with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival on a series of games and digital media properties for the purpose of linking students of high school age more directly with the understanding and appreciation of Shakespearean theatre. This project has been enlarged to include an extensive digitization of the Festival’s physical archives (costumes, masks, wigs, swords, and props) for various purposes, including the use of those archives in digital media productions and the tracing and preservation of production history. In another project, the Games Institute is collaborating with the SiG@Waterloo (Social Innovation Generation) to design game-like interactions with computer simulations of political, economic, and social systems for use in SiG’s Change Lab. In yet another, the Game Institute is partnering on the creation of a game with the creator of a smartphone app designed to help people track allergens in foods. Along with IMMERSe, these three projects suggest the broad range of potential sources of games research.

My years at the University of Waterloo have been spent helping to build the Rhetoric and Professional Writing program at the undergraduate level and the Rhetoric and Communication Design program at the graduate level while establishing a profile in the practice of professional communication and documentation. To those ends, I have published numerous how-to computer books and many feature articles, columns, and reviews in computer magazines such as PC MagazineSmart ComputingPC ComputingPC Gamer, etc. In addition, I have consulted with a variety of technology companies on topics such as digital media creation, methods of effective interactive communication, proposal writing, copyright and patent issues, and public relations. As a games enthusiast, I have designed, developed, and produced board games of the complex simulation kind. All of this activity has found its way into my classes and my research, as has my long-time fascination with the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien. My games studies work includes the relationship of boardgames to videogames, the construction of narrative and dialogue in videogames, and the adaption of Tolkien’s works from book and film into games.

Areas of graduate supervision

  • Game studies
  • Virtual worlds
  • Rhetoric and semiotics of Human-Computer Interaction
  • Semiotics of games and game design
  • J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Practice and analysis of various genres of professional writing: technical documentation, magazine journalism, multimedia production
Affiliation: 
University of Waterloo

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