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About me

Hello!

My name is Dr. Steve Wilcox. I teach game design from a critical perspective; I research how to mobilize knowledge through play; and I design pro-social learning games.

My scholarship has appeared in the Journal of Play, the Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds, & Routledge’s Handbook of Language and Persuasion. Meanwhile, my learning games are accredited by the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

Background

I am a first-generation scholar, having grown up in a small town and worked across a range of sectors and industries, from the kitchen at the nearby military base to masonry in the local trades. Thanks to my parents and summers spent working in construction, I earned my undergrad degree—a blend of computer science, philosophy, literary studies, and creative writing—at the University of Guelph. Once I’d saved up enough from my construction job, I enrolled in the Rhetoric and Communication Design Master’s Degree program at the University of Waterloo where I became familiar with the communicative and persuasive uses of media. After graduation I joined a start-up as a technical writer and web designer. But my intellectual curiosity got the best of me and I started saving for another degree, this time a PhD where I could explore the relationship between media, play, and knowledge mobilization.

In 2010 I enrolled in the English Language and Literature program at the University of Waterloo, which is connected to both the Critical Media Lab and The Games Institute. There I focused on using media—including literature, comics, and videogames—to mobilize knowledge situated in the lives and lived experiences of marginalized peoples. My thesis was that marginalized people are hindered by a diminished social understanding and that media by and about marginalized people can alleviate this deficit not by replicating lived experiences but by teaching others how the world is interpreted or made sense of through various identities and social locations. As part of this research, I worked closely with food allergy researchers and food-allergic children to create a game that would engage the public with the anxiety and bullying children with food allergies face in today’s primary and secondary schools. In the end, my dissertation was the first at the University of Waterloo to be argued, in part, through a game.

During my doctoral studies I co-founded First Person Scholar, a middle-state publication on games and culture. I took on a number of roles at FPS, including web designer, graphic designer, editor-in-chief, and social media manager. Around this time I also created Game Studies 101, an online repository of foundational games, criticism, and scholarship for those looking to study games.

Current

I am an assistant professor of game design and development at Wilfrid Laurier University. I was lead developer on our curriculum, which focuses on critical play and critical game design. We teach our students not only how to design and develop analog and digital games, but how to do so critically and conscientiously. As part of my course load, I teach classes on making meaning through interactive desing (Meaningful Interactions) and how to use ethics to make more engaging and memorable games (Ethics for Game Design).

At the moment I’m working on a book about making games meaningful by design, based on the aforementioned courses. I am also the co-series editor of Palgrave’s Games in Context book series. Looking ahead, I have an ambitious book planned on cognition and play where I thread together embodied cognition, world-building, and play.

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