Jonthan Walton

Jonathan is an award-winning indie game designer, a former China policy analyst, and a teacher and scholar focused on critical analysis of science, technology, and media. A native of North Carolina and Virginia, Jonathan studied Chinese language at the School Year Abroad (SYA) and Associated Colleges in China (ACC) programs in Beijing, as an East Asian Studies major at Oberlin College, and as a Fulbright Fellow at Nanjing University. He then worked for 7 years as a China policy analyst and publications editor at the Long Term Strategy Group (LTSG) and the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR), additionally earning an MA in China Studies at the University of Washington.
At the same time, Jonathan was active in the indie games movement, developing and publishing games around themes of intercultural communication, political injustice, and institutional power. Several of his tabletop and live action games have become “cult classics,” including Geiger Counter, The Planarch Codex, The Lofty Beacons, Tomb Priestesses, and Restless, the latter of which was featured at IndieCade 2015. His most recent game is a sit-down freeform larp based on actual documents from the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864), Personal Testimony from the Last Kings of Heaven, which was named “Game We’re Most Excited About” at the 2021 Golden Cobra Challenge. On the digital side, Jonathan is also a composer of retro video game “chiptunes” music and pixel art, as well as a designer of browser games.
As a PhD Candidate in Communication at UC San Diego, Jonathan’s interdisciplinary research exists at the intersection of game studies, media studies, and science and technology studies. His dissertation focuses on hands-on, play-based learning in science centers and museums, “edutainment” institutions where visitors engage with STEM topics and design thinking. By conducting ethnographic fieldwork at multiple science centers prior to the pandemic, Jonathan found that visitors conduct conceptual and physical “repair” work on interactive exhibits that are confusing or broken, playfully making sense out of their experiences even in the face of technological failure. While at UC San Diego, Jonathan also taught courses in game studies, transmedia design, and science & technology studies.
Jonathan looks forward to bringing his eclectic background and deep love of both teaching and game design to the ETC, helping to train the next generation of innovative entertainment designers.