Carly A. Kocurek

  • Professor of Digital Humanities and Media Studies
  • Associate Dean, Humanities

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 StudiesThe Journal of Gaming and Virtual WorldsTechnical 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 experimental and serious games. Paste Magazine called her game Choice: Texas “one of the best games of 2014.” She served as lead writer and producer for The Spider’s Web, an alternate reality game embedded in a peer-reviewed journal article. In 2020, her print-and-play card game, Happy Ecosystems, was awarded the positive impact award for the Indiecade Climate Jam.

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)


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

Professional Affiliations & Memberships

Digital Games Research Association
Fembot Collective
Learning Games Initiative
Popular Culture Association
Society for Cinema and Media Studies


Indiecade Climate Jam Positive Impact Award, 2020

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

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


Carly A. Kocurek, editor, special issue of Feminist Media Histories on “Video Game History,” 6, no. 1 (Winter 2020).

Carly A. Kocurek, “Night Trap: Violence,” How to Play Videogames, edited by Nina Huntemann and Matthew Thomas Payne. New York: New York University Press. 2019.

Carly A. Kocurek, “Play, Things: Games, Materialism, and the Production of Culture,” Velvet Light Trap 81, (Spring 2018), pp. 66-70.

Michael DeAnda, Jennifer deWinter, Chris Hanson, Carly A. Kocurek, and Stephanie Vie, “‘Families, Friendship, and Feelings’: American Girl, Authenticating Experiences, and the Transmediation of Girlhood,” The Journal of Popular Culture51(4): 972-996.

Carly A. Kocurek, “Ronnie, Millie, Lila—Women’s History for Games: A Manifesto and a Way Forward,”The American Journal of Play 10, no. 1 (2017). pp. 52-70.

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).


Kocurek is currently pursuing a large-scale project to document and study the games for girls movement funded by the National Science Foundation. Her other current projects include 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; and co-editing a volume on the historiography of game studies as a research field.

Her other current projects include two experimental games; one is intended as a tool for processing grief, and the other is an experiential puzzle game distributed by mail.

Additional Info

Grants and Fellowships

Games for Girls: Informing the Future (PI), National Science Foundation ($145,965) 2019

Visiting Scholar, University of North Carolina-Wilmington ($15,000), 2019

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

Media Appearances