Guest Post – The Games Research Network

Today we have a guest post from Sam Illingworth and Paul Wake about their multidisciplinary project – The Games Research Network.

The Games Research Network was born out of a chance conversation at a cross-faculty academic meeting. Both of us sit on Manchester Metropolitan University’s Open Access committee, and during the coffee break of one of these meetings talk turned to the research that the two of us were currently working on. Paul’s remark that he had just finished drafting a paper on the role of identification and empathy in The Warlock of Firetop Mountain quickly led to a discussion of all things Fighting Fantasy, and with it the realization that we were both keen tabletop gamers, and that both of us were very interested in further utilising games in our research.

As a Senior Lecturer in Science Communication, Sam is interested in the role that games can play in helping to develop dialogue between experts and non-experts. Whilst as a Reader in English, Paul’s interests lie more in the role that narrative plays in the development and experience of games. After putting out a few tentative feelers via departmental mailing lists, it became apparent that there were a number of academics across the University with an interest in games and how they integrated with their research. From this the Games Research Network was born, and over the course of the last academic year we’ve been meeting regularly to play games and to discuss our research into games and gaming. In many of these sessions we’ve also playtested games that other colleagues across the University had been working on, offering feedback from both an academic and a gamer perspective.

This summer we hosted MULTIPLATFORM 2017, an international event that brought together academics from across the globe to discuss the development of gaming research. As the name of the symposium perhaps suggeasts, the Games Research Network does not only focus on tabletop games, but also contains several researchers who are conducting important research into video games and it is this dual consideration, of both the analogue and the digital, which we consider to be one of our strongest assets, and which inspired the title of the MULTIPLATFORM event.

The role of the Games Research Network has continued to grow, and has led to the development of a brand-new unit on games writing at the University, as well as a successful funding bid to investigate the pedagogic potential for games in the classroom. However, arguably our proudest achievement for the Games Research Network to date is a regular column that we now write for Tabletop Gaming Magazine, one of Europe’s premier gaming monthlies. In our column, we aim to explore some of the fascinating research that is being done into tabletop games, and in doing so we hope to also demystify the role of the modern academic and address some of the societal benefits that the university can offer as a place of research.

For International Games Week, we are absolutely delighted to be partnering with the University’s All Saint’s Library for a day of gaming goodness on 31st October. Given that it is also Halloween, participants will be able to take part in a wide range of spooktacular (sorry) games, ranging from Cthulhu Fluxx to Betrayal at House on the Hill. These games will be curated by members of the Network, library staff, and students from the University’s gaming society. The idea is that there should be something for everyone, both newbies looking for a quick 5-minute fix, and established gamers who are after a more immersive experience; for more information about the event, please check out our entry on the IGW map.

If any of you would like to find out more about the Network, become a member, or attend any of our events, then please get in contact with us via our website or by emailing us at

Sam Illingworth (@samillingworth) and Paul Wake (@pfwgames)

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