Meet Honors’ Newest Faculty Member: Assistant Professor of Game Studies, Dr. Wendi Sierra

July 8, 2020

Wendi Sierra has been a gamer for as long as she can remember. In fact, her earliest memories included playing video games with her parents. The family was fond of World of Warcraft, and Sierra recalls, “When I was a broke grad student, I actually got my parents in-game presents because I couldn’t afford to get them anything in person!” In addition to World of Warcraft, she is a fan of horror games, the Borderlands series and Pokemon Go (which she plays with her 4-year-old daughter).

Sierra has also always loved a good story, so she studied literature and religious studies in her undergrad, with minors in Russian and Classics. Her graduate work brought her into rhetoric and technology, which eventually culminated in a Ph.D. in communication, rhetoric and digital media.

“One of the things I love about gaming is that it is a very interdisciplinary field,” she said. She notes that there are countless varied approaches to gaming research, including ethnographic research (looking at players), narrative research (looking at the narrative within a game), technical research (looking at the coding it takes to make a game) and more.

Concept art for “A Strong Fire,” by artist Dawn Dark Mountain.

Her own research is primarily focused on how games can offer learning environments for players and one of her ongoing works has a personal connection. Sierra is a member of the Oneida people, an American Indian tribe, and is working with a team to develop A Strong Fire, funded by the National Endowment for Humanities “Digital Projects for the Public” grant, a game that aims to help players learn and preserve the Oneida language. Currently, the project has its initial story outline, concept art and beginning discussions about game mechanics. The team hopes to have something playable by fall of 2020.

When asked about what she looks forward to during her time at TCU, she said, “I’m really excited by the Honors College in general because I feel like it really embraces that interdisciplinarity that I was looking for throughout my entire academic career.” She also noted that she looks forward to being around other faculty members and students alike that embrace the idea of a multi-pronged educational approach.

Her courses at TCU will cover a variety of topics associated with gaming, including educational games, the health uses of games, gamification and consumer loyalty programs, representation in gaming and more.

Welcome to the John V. Roach Honors College, Dr. Sierra! We are so thrilled to have you.

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