Nicholas Mizer

Lecturer, GSAS

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 democractic 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, 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.

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 His book, Tabletop Role-Playing Games and the Experience of Imagined World, 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 BA, Anthropology, BIola University

Research Focus
  • Role-playing Games
  • Analog Games
  • Worldbuilding
  • Emergent Narrative
  • Critical Game Design
Select Works
  • 2019. Tabletop Role-Playing Games and the Experience of Imagined Worlds. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • 2018 "Sociology and Role-Playing Games." In Role-Playing Game Studies: Transmedia Foundations. Edited by Sebastian Deterding and Jose Zagal. Routledge. (With Sebastian Deterding, David Kirschner, and Patrick Williams)
  • 2016 “’Fun in a Different Way:’ Rhythms of Engagement and Non-Immersive Play Agendas.” Analog Game Studies: Volume 1. Edited by Evan Torner, Aaron Trammell, and Emma Leigh Waldron. ETC Press.
  • 2014 “The Paladin Ethic and the Spirit of Dungeoneering.” Journal of Popular Culture 47:1296-1313.
  • 2013 “No One Role-Plays the Spanish Inquisition! A Preliminary Analysis of Role-Playing Games in Spain.” 2013 Wyrd Con Companion Book:77-85.
  • 2013 “Natural-Field Dictator Game Shows No Altruistic Giving” Evolution and Human Behavior 34(4):288-293. (With Jeff Winking)