About The Researcher
As a graduate of a Bachelor of Arts (Sociology and Social Enterprise) from Australia’s Griffith University, I primarily focused on social welfare topics in my undergraduate degree. This led me to go on international exchange for a year to Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland, where I studied interdisciplinary topics of both Sociology and Psychology/Public Health. I didn’t know it at the time, but my exchange year would transform my life in fantastic ways that have brought my life full circle.
I have always been a gamer, since before I hit double digits, though throughout my childhood it was primarily video or board games that took up my time. When I was almost 12 we experienced the internet being switched on for public use (I still remember the ear-splitting noise of dial-up modems). From that moment on I became a part of the fantasy roleplay gaming world as an online text-based RPGer. After a couple of years I became a worldbuilder, a virtual GM of free-form roleplay encounters in settings ranging from high medieval fantasy to post-apocalyptic mutant settings, combining elements of fairy tales and steampunk like an alchemist of storytelling, and wandered into the dark blood-soaked mansions of werewolves, vampires, and zombies. Having been an RPGer for 24 years as of 2018, I am (as far as we can ascertain with available knowledge) the longest-running active Australian female online text-based roleplayer. But, I didn’t always have the smoothest road on this journey.
I made it halfway through my senior year but I didn’t get to graduate high-school. As a teen I became homeless around the age of 16, couch surfing, living out of my car, doing what low-end jobs I could find in burger joints and internet cafes. But you gotta do what you gotta do to survive in life, and at that time school just couldn’t be part of that picture. At 21 I gained entry into university because of the Australian government’s initiative to help mature-age students without an HSC (the equivalent of a GED) enter tertiary education. But, within two years I experienced an interruption to my education after an assault left me with Agoraphobia and PTSD. After a couple of years, I decided I wanted to try getting back to education, so I enrolled in an online degree in Media & Cultural Studies. Unfortunately, my education was interrupted again by the university no longer being able to offer continuing units for the course. I decided at that time to take time off to deal with the diagnosis of a heart condition, but after several years I was able to get healthy again and decided to try education again. I enrolled at Griffith in 2013 at 31 years of age. Within the first semester of my degree I was sick and, during a small procedure to address the symptoms, precursor endometrial cancer cells were found. I was lucky, it was caught in time, and as of 2016 I was given my first all-clear and ability to have two-yearly checks rather than every year. My university helped me through this hard point in my life – they gave me support through disability services while I was sick and struggling, my lecturers were so fantastically supportive and encouraging, and all of this meant I didn’t have to stop my studies despite all that was going on for me. I didn’t want to have to give up my lifelong dream of graduating and going on to Honours and a Ph.D. and it was because of their support that I didn’t have to withdraw. They even gave me a scholarship and funding to go overseas to Scotland, something I would never have been able to afford on my own, and I can’t thank them enough for all they’ve done for me.
Which leads us to Scotland. It was while I was in Scotland that I was homesick and poking around on YouTube, looking for episodes of Tabletop that I hadn’t seen on the Geek & Sundry site. It was there I spotted a video for Critical Role and sped through the first 20 episodes in a week, diving down the rabbit hole that has led me to where I am now. I got back into gaming after having given it up for so many years because of my health issues, I joined a D&D group in Edinburgh, and I got actively back into gaming after thinking I had to put it aside to try and secure a future after having so many things interrupt my life. Critical Role reminded me of who I am at my core, it brought me back to the passions in life that I had almost forgotten in my desire to find stability, and let me know that I didn’t have to give up something I love, something so much a part of who I am and what I dreamed for my life, just because I wanted to make up for lost time. I stopped thinking that work was all there was to my life and brought it back into balance with my gaming and creative pursuits. When I returned to Australia and graduated from my degree, and was offered a place in the Honours program as a part of my Sociology department, I had a sudden whim: Could I do a paper on Dungeons & Dragons? The answer, to my surprise, was not just yes but ‘That’s a fantastic idea! Go for it!’
When I first started the dissertation it was focused on the sociological benefits of playing D&D (therapeutic applications, educational uses, etc). But when my father became sick I knew I had to reduce my workload, and as a result I focused on the heart of what brought of me back to gaming in the first place – Critical Role. So now the project stands as you see it on this website. It will be finished at the end of 2018, having been completed part-time over two years due to health issues and family concerns, and I hope to go straight into Ph.D. where I would like to undertake the research I’ve spoken about in the Future Research section of this website, and then hopefully become a professional geek researcher/consultant or communities manager behind-the-scenes of companies like Geek & Sundry or Nerdist to help foster a better understanding of gamers and gaming culture and promote fan cultures like our wonderful Critter community.
Where this road will take me isn’t sure yet, but I hope that I will meet many of you along the way on my journey. Til then, #lessthanthree and
‘Is it Thursday yet?’
Artwork ©Mikandii. Used with permission.