Nicholas Mizer's research sits at the intersection of anthropology, interactive design, phenomenology, and gonzo ethnography. From this position, Mizer investigates questions of how collaborative imagination shapes the human experience of worlds, especially how imagining other worlds together can serve as a way to re-enchant and re-make our own world. One direction this works take him is through developing critically gameful pedagogy; that is courses-as-games that re-imagine the classroom community as a playfully democratic space.
His work primarily focuses on tabletop role-playing games, but also includes other analog, digital, and mixed media forms of play. Mizer is appointed in the Communication & Media Department and the Games & Simulation Arts & Sciences (GSAS) program, where he teaches courses on the history and culture of games, game design, worldbuilding, and storytelling through games. He is also the founder and curator of the Interactive Media Archaeology Lab, which provides students with immersive learning opportunities through first-hand experience with games in their original formats. Mizer also serves on the Gameful Learning Task Force, charged with developing and implementing innovative models of gameful learning throughout RPI.
An editor for The Geek Anthropologist, a website which offers critical analysis of popular culture, and as co-chair of Game Studies for the Popular Culture / American Culture Association, and a member of the AnthropologyCon collective, which seeks to develop the role of games in anthropological teaching and research, Mizer is committed to keeping research and its products engaged with the public, to mentoring young scholars, and to working across disciplinary boundaries. He further pursues these goals through serving as Director of the academic tracks for the Bradley Board Game Symposium and Metatopia. His book, Tabletop Role-Playing Games and the Experience of Imagined Worlds, was published through Palgrave-Macmillan in 2019, and his writings on play, imagination, and geek culture have appeared in The Journal of Popular Culture, Role-playing Game Studies, Analog Game Studies, and Evolution and Human Behavior.
PhD, Anthropology, Texas A&M University, 2015
B.A., Anthropology, Biola University, 2009
Role-playing Games, Worldbuilding, Emergent Narrative, Critical Game Design, Gameful Learning, Games as Praxis
#AnthropologyCon Collective (www.anthropologycon.org)
Gameful Learning Task Force
Interactive Media Archaeology Lab
History and Culture of Games
Introduction to Game Storytelling
Game Narrative Design
Introduction to Worldbuilding
Analog Role-Playing Games
Topics in Game Research: Games as Praxis
“Dark Forests & Doomed Adventurers: Games and the Environment.” Manchester Game Studies Network
“Games and Game Hacks for Critical Futures.” Zones of Connection: Bradley Board Game Symposium.
“Games as Cosmographic Vehicles: The Case of Dr. Yu Tsun.” Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association National Conference.
“Progressive Pedagogy Red Box: A Panel on Gameful Learning.” Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association National Conference.
“Phenomenology of Role Playing” Metatopia Conference.
“The Radical Potential of Discovering New Worlds Through Play.” Invited Lecture, Bradley University, November 10, 2020.
“Of Spectator Sports and Performative Play: Tabletop RPGs in the Twitch Age” Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association National Conference, Washington, DC.
“AnthropologyCon: Uncertainty and Improvisational Imagination in Anthropological Games.” Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association National Conference, Indianapolis, IN.
“The other Side of the ‘System Matters’ Coin: Forge Influences on the Old School Renaissance.” Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association National Conference, San Diego, CA
“Enchantment and the Experience of Imagined Worlds.” Living Games Conference, Austin, TX.
“῾Responsibly and Accurately:’ Making, Dwelling, and Building in Long-term Campaigns.” Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association National Conference, Seattle, WA
“’What Kind of a World is This:’ The Experience of Imagined Worlds in Long-Term Tabletop Role-Playing Game Campaigns. American Anthropological Association Conference, Minneapolis, MN.
“Color, Song, and Choice Diction: Chromomantic Abduction of Imagined Worlds in Tabletop Role-Playing Games.” American Anthropological Association Conference, Denver, CO.
“A Life Well Played: Commemoration and Play at a Commemorative Gaming Convention.” American Folklore Society Conference, Long Beach, CA.
“One Must Silly Walk Into Mordor: The Role of the Contingent, Mundane, and Silly in Mythologizing.” Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association National Conference, Chicago, IL
“’I Kidnap Reality and Hold It Hostage:’ a Phenomenological Case Study of Shared Imaginative Worlds in Tabletop Role-Playing Games" American Anthropological Association Conference, Washington, DC
“Nomadic Tactics in Post-Revenge Geekdom,” Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association National Conference, Washington, DC
“When Tactics Become Strategies: Power Dynamics and Consumption in Post-Revenge Geekdom.” American Anthropological Association Conference, Chicago, IL
“The Paladin Ethic and the Spirit of Dungeoneering: Mapping as Rationalized Enchantment / Enchanted Rationalization,” Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association National Conference, Boston, MA
“Hey Grimm, I'm Not in the Room, Right? Negotiations of Space and Place in Dungeon & Dragons.” American Anthropological Association Conference, Montreal, QC
“The Pictures are So Much Better: Cross-Media Influences in Dungeons & Dragons.” Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association Conference, San Antonio, TX
“Chosen from the Mass of Perdition: An Anthropological Perspective on the Rise and Fall of the Knights Templar.” Society for the Anthropology of Religion Conference, Phoenix, AZ
Books and Book Chapters
Tabletop Role-Playing Games and the Experience of Imagined Worlds. Palgrave Macmillan. 2019.
Role-Playing Game Studies: Transmedia Foundations. With Sebastian Deterding, David Kirschner, and Patrick Williams. Routledge. 2018. Edited volume, contributing author for “Sociology and Role-playing Games” chapter.
“Games and Public Anthropology.” The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. (Manuscript accepted, publication forthcoming in 2022)
“’Fun in a Different Way:’ Rhythms of Engagement and Non-Immersive Play Agendas.” Analog Game Studies. Volume 1. 2016. Pp. 9-14.
“The Paladin Ethic and the Spirit of Dungeoneering.” Journal of Popular Culture Volume 47. 2014. Pp. 1296-1313.
“No One Role-Plays the Spanish Inquisition! A Preliminary Analysis of Role-Playing Games in Spain.” Wyrd Con Companion Book. 2013. Pp. 77-85.
“Natural-Field Dictator Game Shows No Altruistic Giving.” Evolution and Human Behavior. Volume 34, Issue 4. 2013 Pp. 288-293. With Jeff Winking.