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Carly A. Kocurek

Carly A. Kocurek, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities and Media Studies







SH 212


Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin, American Studies
M.A., The University of Texas at Austin, American Studies
B.A., Rice University, English and History

Research Interests 

Digital culture
Game design
Media studies
History of video gaming
Video games and gender
Video game violence


Carly A. Kocurek is a cultural historian specializing in the study of new media technologies and video gaming. She is the author of two books, Coin-Operated Americans: Rebooting Boyhood at the Video Game Arcade, which covers the early rise of video game arcades in the U.S., and Brenda Laurel: Pioneering Games for Girls, a consideration of Laurel’s career as researcher and game designer. Her articles have appeared in numerous scholarly journals, including Game Studies, The Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds, Technical Communication Quarterly, and Visual Studies, among others. With Jennifer deWinter, she co-founded and co-edits the Influential Game Designers book series for Bloomsbury.

She is also a game designer specializing in educational and serious games, and Paste Magazine called her game Choice: Texas “one of the best games of 2014.” Currently, she is pursuing a collaboration with Jennifer L. Miller, a developmental psychologist, to design a game for early childhood language acquisition. In 2015, this project was named a finalist for the Nayar Prize.

At Illinois Tech, she teaches courses on digital culture, interactive storytelling, game design, and media history at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. She also works with both undergraduate and graduate students on collaborative research and design projects.

Seeking Ph.D. students with interests in:

Understanding games as a cultural form, including in particular the intersections of games and gaming practices with gender, socioeconomic status, and other facets of identity

Understanding the role of play and games in daily life

Designing and developing games for serious or educational purposes, particularly games that address complex or uncomfortable topics or that aim to intervene in social problems

Interviewing people and/or studying media (Previous experience is useful, but isn’t necessarily essential)

Professional Society Memberships 

Current Projects 

Kocurek is currently co-authoring a book, tentatively titled Ultima: The Art of Worldcraft with Matthew Thomas Payne about the Ultima game franchise for the University of Michigan Press. She and Jennifer Miller jointly direct the Developmental Media Lab, which has several projects open related to children’s media production and use.

Her other current projects include two experimental tabletop games; one explores the realities of socioeconomic class in daily life, and the other is intended as a tool for processing grief.

Awards & Honors 

IIT Sigma Xi-Junior Faculty Award for Excellence in Research, 2016

Invitee to First White House Summit on LGBT Technical Innovation, 2014


Faculty Entrepreneurship Fellowship (fellow), Coleman Foundation ($5,000), 2016

Game for Early Childhood Language Acquisition (joint-PI with Jennifer Miller), Nayar Prize Phase I Proposal ($100,000), 2015

Brenda Laurel: Pioneering Games for Girls (PI), Dean’s Research Fund Grant ($1,100), 2015

Coin-Operated Americans (fellow), Strong Museum of Play Research Fellowship ($1,000), 2014


Carly A. Kocurek and Matthew Thomas Payne, Ultima: The Art of Worldcrafting, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Under contract.

Carly A. Kocurek, Brenda Laurel: Pioneering Games for Girls, New York: Bloomsbury. Forthcoming 2017.

Carly A. Kocurek, Coin-Operated Americans: Rebooting Boyhood at the Video Game Arcade, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.

Selected Publications 

Carly A. Kocurek, “Ronnie, Millie, Lila--Women’s History for Games: A Manifesto and a Way Forward.” American Journal of Play 9, no. 2 (2017). Forthcoming.

Carly A. Kocurek and Jennifer L. Miller, “Olive Dreams of Elephants: Game-Based Learning for School Readiness and Pre-Literacy in Young Children,” Communications in Computer and Information Science: Immersive Learning Research Network 621 (2016). pp. 160-170.

Carly A. Kocurek, “Who Hearkens to the Monster’s Scream? Death, Violence, and the Veil of the Monstrous in Video Games.” Visual Studies 30, no. 1 (2015). pp. 1-11.

Jennifer deWinter, Carly A. Kocurek, and Randall Nichols, “Taylorism 2.0: Gamification, Scientific Management, and the Capitalist Appropriation of Play.” Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds 6, no. 2 (2014). pp. 109-127.

Carly A. Kocurek, “The Treachery of Pixels: Reconsidering Feelies in an Era of Digital Play.” Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds 5, no. 3 (2013). pp. 295-306.

Carly A. Kocurek, “The Agony and the Exidy: A History of Video Game Violence and the Legacy of Death Race.” Game Studies 12, no. 1. (2012).