Welcome to my site! I’m Dr Mark R Johnson. As far as I can tell I’m currently the only person in the world who cuts across academic game studies, indie game development, and world class competitive gaming. I’m a Postdoctoral Fellow funded by the AHRC and EPSRC in the University of York’s Digital Creativity Labs, Researcher in Residence at the UK Digital Catapult, an independent game developer and co-host of the Roguelike Radio podcast, and an ex-professional gamer currently pursuing a number of arcade gaming world records. I’m also working on my first monograph, The Unpredictability of Gameplay, to be published by Bloomsbury Academic!
For the last five years I’ve updated this blog every weekend (with the exception of about three during highly unusual circumstances), 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. If you fancy employing me or having me come to give a talk, send me an email at mark @ this domain.
- My research is focused on a number of related topics at the intersections between video games, money, new forms of employment and labour, and interactive technologies: I’m currently especially interested in Esports and competitive gaming, Twitch and live streaming, fantasy sports, and professional gambling. My first monograph, The Unpredictability of Gameplay, is due out in late 2017/early 2018 by Bloomsbury Academic, and I’m currently securing the contract for my second book. I have half a dozen papers and book chapters published or in press, with another half-dozen under review at a range of leading journals. I’ve spoken at dozens of games conferences including GDC Europe, DiGRA, FDG, the International Conference on Computational Creativity, the Canadian Game Studies Association, AISB AI & Games, Nucl.AI, and many others, on topics ranging from qualitative procedural generation to Japanese arcade culture, and interactive storytelling to ASCII game semiotics.
- I’m the sole author of this blog (1,000,000+ lifetime hits) and co-host of the popular podcast Roguelike Radio, which has also recently reached 1m+ lifetime hits.
- I’ve given invited talks at a large range of public gaming events and undergraduate courses, such as Norwich Gaming Festival, the University of Lincoln, the University of Bedfordshire, ProcJam, the National Videogame Arcade, York Geekfest, Varsity Games, and many others.
- I’ve been interviewed live on BBC World News about eSports to an audience of almost a hundred million, and cited on BBC News on the same topic; I think academic engagement with the media is absolutely essential, and I’m always open to invitations for comment.
- I’ve also written pieces for a number of gaming magazines, websites, and academic blogs on a range of topics:
“Understanding Twitch Chat […]” (Discover Society)
“High-Stakes Gamblers, Game Design […]” (First Person Scholar)
“Procedural Generation’s Future” (Rock Paper Shotgun)
“How to Create Cultures” (Rock Paper Shotgun)
“The Sociology of Streaming” (Sociological Imagination)
“How Games Can Benefit From PCG Lore” (Rock Paper Shotgun)
“How To Generate A Religion” (Rock Paper Shotgun)
“You Can Spin Your Own Sci-Fi Tale in ‘RimWorld’” (Vice Gaming)
“Warning Forever: A Danmaku Dialogue” (First Person Scholar)
“Researching the Growth of eSports in the UK” (eSports News)
“Before Spelunky and FTL, there was only ASCII” (Paste Magazine)
“The Demonic Properties of an Ampersand” (Kill Screen)
“How integral are letters and text to ASCII gaming?” (Imaginary Realities)
“Alternate History Aesthetics in Red Alert” (Memory Insufficient)
“Civilian Targets” and “Seeing Green” (Five out of Ten)
- 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, Umberto Eco, and Wu Ming.
- 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. It has been in development for nearly five years and have completed the “worldbuilding” portion of the game, moving (at last!) into gameplay.
- 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 or reported on by Rock Paper Shotgun, Kill Screen, PC Gamer, and many others, and I plan to start displaying the game at conventions and independent game events in the near future.
- In 2003 I spent a significant length of time as one of the highest ranked players in the world on Red Alert 2’s competitive ladder and was a lead developer of the high-level metagame.
- From 2005-2007 I played Counterstrike:Source, and by 2007 was very close to being able to meaningfully compete at a national level, until I then discovered poker, after which from 2008-2011 I was a professional poker player, playing around 2,000,000 hands lifetime.
- In recent years I have begun pursuing the world records in a number of “bullet hell”/danmaku games, which will be posted here when achieved. I currently hold three world records in the genre.
- Once I’m thirty and have to retire from twitch/reflex competitive gaming… who knows? I am currently debating a return to (semi-)professional poker, or taking up Go, Backgammon or a game like Mahjong or Xiangqi, alongside my academic and game development work.
World Records/High Scores:
Score Rush (360), 1,272,316,741 (World Record Video and Analysis)
Danmaku Unlimited 2 (PC), 4.295 trillion (World Record Video & Analysis)
Blue Wish Resurrection (PC), 46,733,000 (World Record Video & Analysis) [Old world record, now world #2 score]
Cho Ren Sha 68k (PC), 25,622,078 (World Record Video & Analysis)