Welcome to my blog! I’m Mark R Johnson. As far as I can tell I’m currently the only person in the world who cuts across academic game studies, game development, and world-class competitive gaming. I’m currently a game studies academic-in-the-making, an independent game developer and a leading figure in the roguelike community, and an ex-professional gamer currently pursuing a number of gaming world records. This blog is primarily about updates on my own game, Ultima Ratio Regum, but also features more general games commentary and criticism. For the last four years I’ve updated this blog every weekend, and intend to continue doing so until the heat death of the universe. If you want to see what I’m up to, the best way is to either read this blog or follow me on Twitter, where I post lots of stuff about game design, game studies, and URR’s development. I am currently seeking employment in game studies, and more opportunities for public engagement in games. If you fancy employing me or having me come to give a talk (please do), send me an email at mark @ this domain, and my full CV is available on request.



After my undergraduate in Politics & Sociology, I went straight to a doctorate at the University of York (UK), and from 2011-2014 I studied for a PhD in Science & Technology Studies (STS) in the Department of Sociology (#1 in the UK in the 2014 REF). Using both STS and first-hand experience of both game development and high-level competitive gaming I am now moving into game studies.

Peer-Reviewed Papers:

  • Johnson, M. R.  (Submission Anticipated August 2015), “Vengeance and the Rule of Law in EVE Online”
  • Johnson, M. R. (Under Review), “The History of Cyberspace Aesthetics in Digital Games”
  • Johnson, M. R. (In Press), “Bullet Hell: The Globalized Growth of danmaku games and the Digital Culture of High Scores and World Records”, in Pulos, A. & Lee, A. (Eds.), Video Games in East Asia, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Johnson, M. R. (2015), “The Use of ASCII Graphics in Roguelikes: Aesthetic Nostalgia and Semiotic Difference” in Games and Culture.

Conference Presentations (highlights):

  • 2015 (Upcoming): “Hand-Made Detail in a Procedural World.” Game Developers Conference Europe (GDC Europe), Cologne.
  • 2015: “Asymmetric Warfare in Video Games: A Military Force without Economic Capital in “Command and Conquer”.” Canadian Game Studies Association Conference, Ottawa.
  • 2015: “Bullet Hell: The Globalized Growth of danmaku games and the Digital Culture of High Scores and World Records.” DiGRA 2015, Lüneburg, Germany.
  • 2015: “Modelling Cultural, Religious and Political Affiliation in Artificial Intelligence Decision-Making.” AISB AI and Games Conference, University of Kent.
  • 2014: “The Semiotics of the Roguelike.” Canadian Game Studies Association Conference, St. Catharines, Ontario.



  • 2015: “The Procedural Generation of Culture and Aesthetics.” Norwich Gaming Festival. (Invited)
  • 2015: “Codifying the Abstract: Programming a Procedurally-Generated Renaissance World.” Invited Lecture on Game Design Course, University of Lincoln. (Invited)
  • 2014: “Managing Size and Scale in Procedural Generation.” ProcJam (Procedural Generation Game Jam) Opening Conference. Goldsmiths, London (Invited)



I design/program/develop Ultima Ratio Regum, a “classic” roguelike game written in Python. Its narrative and themes are inspired by the works of Jorge Luis Borges and Umberto Eco. As well as providing the challenging gameplay experience one expects from roguelikes, I want to get players thinking intellectually about other issues such as historiography, cryptography, philosophical idealism, linguistics, and many others. I have been developing it for four years and have almost completed the “worldbuilding” portion of the game. Ultima Ratio Regum can be found on Facebook, Twitter at UltimaRegum, on IndieDB, and has been reported on in a number of gaming news outlets. I’ve also been interviewed for Rock Paper Shotgun, the Guardian newspaper and various others, featured several times in PC Gamer, and I’m a regular guest on the Roguelike Radio podcast. As of December 2014 I am currently developing URR “full-time” for a year!




In 2003 I spent a significant length of time as the #1 ranked player in the world on Red Alert 2’s competitive ladder and was a lead developer of the high-level metagame. From 2005-2007 I was working towards being a world-class competitive Counterstrike:Source player, until discovering poker, after which from 2008-2011 I was a professional poker player. In recent years I have begun pursuing the world records in a number of “bullet hell” games, which will be posted here when achieved.

World Records:

Score Rush (360), 1,272,316,741 (Analysis)

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