Neil Randall

Associate Professor | Executive Director, The Games Institute | Chair, Council for Responsible Innovation and Technology

Photo of Neil Randall.

PhD, York
MA, Waterloo
BA, Guelph

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I am a long-time faculty member in the English department at the University of Waterloo, Canada, and Executive Director of the Games Institute (, one of eight university-level research centres at Waterloo. I am also the Chair of the Council for Responsible Innovation and Technology (CRIT), created by the Office of Research to address ethics in current, emerging, and future technologies and related practices.

The Games Institute was created in 2010 to study game, game-driven interactions and technologies, and, in a broader scope, any form of rich, compelling engagement with digital technologies. Its researchers – drawn from the humanities, social sciences, health sciences, computer science, and engineering – study games for entertainment, serious games, virtual reality, augmented reality, in fact any form of interactive immersive media and technology. The GI is based in a large space in East Campus 1, where its faculty members and graduate students collaborate on ideas and projects under the principles of true interdisciplinarity and of equity, diversity, and inclusivity.

The Games Institute has been the focus of my research and administration since its inception. In 2012, a group of 30+ faculty members across Canada and the United States won a SSHRC Partnership Grant to create a games research network called IMMERSe (The Interactive and Multi-Modal Research Syndicate) under my directorship as principal investigator. Its $2.55M award, with cash and in-kind contributions from academic and industry partners increasing the total award to $5.8M, established a collaboration of seven universities and six industry partners to conduct research into games interpretation, player experience, and player behavior. Multi-disciplinary  and multi-institutional from its inception, the network included researchers from the humanities, the social sciences, engineering, and computer science.

Through the Games Institute, I have initiated numerous projects outside the SSHRC Partnership Grant, including five-year research partnerships with Scotiabank on game-driven digital experiences and Correctional Service Canada on dialogue-driven help for offenders seeking to rebuild their lives after incarceration. I have been fortunate to work with industry and community partners through the Mitacs funding body, for projects ranging from research into the design of two commercial games to research towards games that teach, through player interaction and participation, issues surrounding climate change, quantum physics, and energy conservation, among other topics.

My years at the University of Waterloo have been spent helping to build the Rhetoric and Professional Writing program (now Rhetoric, Media, and Professional Communication) at the undergraduate level and the Rhetoric and Communication Design and Experimental Digital Media programs 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, the function and interpretation of simulation in games, 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