Late nights, caffeine, moving images on a screen, all blurred together with a competitive edge. These are often the images one conjures up when thinking about video gaming. But it is the latter, how people interact with one another, that fuels the interest of the Virginia Tech Department of English’s newest faculty member.

The transition

In an innovative blend of disciplines, James Ivory, a professor from the Virginia Tech School of Communication, joins the Department of English. Since before coming to Virginia Tech in 2005, Ivory’s research explores games and interactive platforms, including social media and virtual environments, offering a social science and behavioral lens.

“As media have evolved,” Ivory said, “my interest in media technologies is increasingly less about what they do to people as some sort of stimulus and more about the complex social experiences people have in spaces such as digital games and virtual environments, as well as how we perceive and discuss games societally.”

The impact

Many people think of games as leisurely activities. Now, Ivory’s research uncovers their power in influencing societal narratives and cultural discussions. By intertwining a social science perspective with gaming, he brings forward new views on human interactions, storytelling, and engagement.

A fresh chapter

His move signals an exciting era for professional and technical writing. Here, English, communications, and social science converge, finding unity in gaming.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Ivory join our faculty,” said James Dubinsky, director of the professional and technical writing program. “Jimmy studies the social and psychological dimensions of new media and communication technologies, particularly the content and effects of video games, virtual environments, and simulations. He cares deeply about social issues and the impact of games and technology on users. Our program has long focused on user experience and the effects of technology and language on society. Jimmy’s focus on games and simulations complements and expands what we can offer students.”

Current endeavors

With his move, Ivory integrates the Virginia Tech Gaming and Media Effects Laboratory (VT GAMER Lab) into his new department, delving into the societal repercussions of games and related technologies.

His collaborative efforts extend to the Virginia Tech Academy of Transdisciplinary Studies, fostering a new gaming minor. Ivory is also serving on the freshly inaugurated artificial intelligence task force within the department.


A recognized media expert, Ivory’s insights have graced platforms such as the New York Times and Wired Magazine. He’s addressed several pressing issues, including debunking myths connecting video games to school shootings.

The author of “Virtual lives: A reference handbook," Ivory has a rich academic background with a Ph.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill and degrees from the University of Wyoming, his home state.

Written by Leslie King