I hold degrees in Information Science, Library Science, and Math and Computer Science. Previously, I was a professor at Syracuse University's School of Information Science from 2001-2015, where I was the director of the Masters of the Library and Information Science program. I was also a visiting professor at MIT's Gambit Game Lab during the 2011-2012 academic year.
I have written two books: Unlocking the Potential of Puzzle-Based Learning: Designing Escape Rooms & Games for the Classroom (co-authored with Liz Cable) and Everyone Plays at the Library (solo authored) and over 50 research articles which can all be found in full text at my personal website.
My main interest is in creating games and helping others create games and simulations that can make a difference, otherwise known as transformative games, serious games, educational games or applied games. Based upon the situation, these might be board and card games, digital games, or live-action games like Escape Rooms.
I explore methods of participatory design, where I encourage the community to be a co-creator in the games through game jams and workshops. I also work on Meaningful Gamification, which is the use of elements from games other than rewards to motivate people.
My current research is focused on how we can use design concepts from Escape Rooms to make engaging activities for places of informal learning like museums and libraries and for training activities for corporate and non-profit organizations.
I have applied this to create a storytelling game system for low-resource classrooms called EscapeIF. EscapeIF is a system where teachers read from a script and students work together to make decisions and overcome challenges based on real-world applications of learning outcomes. It requires only the game script, a blackboard, and found objects and is inspired by roleplaying games, interactive fiction, and escape room design.
The goal of the BGNlab is to explore ways to create meaningful games. This is typically done in partnership with an organization, such as a museum, classroom, or other formal and informal settings. We seek funding to do design research, develop prototypes, and test games. We also look to fund game jams, where groups of learners work together to make games to explore concepts. We fund students in our Game Design program as designers, researchers, and consultants on these projects.
Nicholson, S. (2022). EscapeIF: Educational Storytelling Games for Low-Resource Classrooms. Published Online.
McDowell, S., and Nicholson, S. (2021). Minimizing Cultural Bias in Escape Rooms.9(1). Analog Game Studies.
Nicholson, S. (2016). Ask Why: Creating a Better Player Experience Through Environmental Storytelling and Consistency in Escape Room Design. Paper presented at Meaningful Play 2016, Lansing, Michigan.
Nicholson, S. (2015). “Peeking behind the locked door: A survey of escape room facilities.” White Paper.
Nicholson, S. (2013). “Playing in the Past: A History of Games, Toys and Puzzles in North American Libraries.” Library Quarterly 83(4), 341-361.
Nicholson, S. (2013, June). “Exploring Gamification Techniques for Classroom Management.” Paper Presented at Games+Learning+Society 9.0, Madison, WI.
Nicholson, S. (2012, June). “A User-Centered Theoretical Framework for Meaningful Gamification.” Paper Presented at Games+Learning+Society 8.0, Madison, WI.
Full text of most of Dr. Nicholson’s publications can be found at scottnicholson.com/pubs.
Analog Gaming and Interactivity
Analog Game Design
Critical Game Design I
Game Design Foundations
Escape Room and Puzzle Design
Gamification and Gameful Design
Pre-Production for Games
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