Photo by Vladimír Šigut

Jaroslav Švelch is an assistant professor at Charles University, Prague. He is the author of the recent monograph Gaming the Iron Curtain: How Teenagers and Amateurs in Communist Czechoslovakia Claimed the Medium of Computer Games (MIT Press, 2018). He has published work on history and theory of computer games, on humor in games and social media, and on the Grammar Nazi phenomenon. He is currently researching history, theory, and reception of monsters in games.

Education and training

  • University of Bergen – postdoctoral fellow (July 2017–June 2019), team member, Games and Transgressive Aesthetics project
  • Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University – media studies (Ph.D., September 2013). Dissertation: The 8-bit “craze”: The Origins of Computer Gaming Culture in Czechoslovakia
  • Microsoft Research New England – Ph.D. internship (September – December 2012)
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology – comparative media studies, visiting researcher on the J.W. Fulbright scholarship (September 2007 – January 2009)
  • Faculty of Arts, Charles University – linguistics and phonetics/translation and interpretation (Master’s Degree, 2011). Thesis: Amateur Translation of TV Feature Series and Its Social Context.
  • Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University – media studies (Master’s degree, 2005). Thesis: Time stucture in narrative news stories.
  • University of Glamorgan – media & communication, exchange student (September 2003-March 2004)
  • Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University – journalism (Bachelor’s degree, 2002). Thesis: The Relationship between the Verbal and Non-Verbal elements in the Čtyřlístek comics.

Research experience

  • research of theory, history and reception of video game monsters within the Games and Transgressive Aesthetics (GTA) project undertaken at the University of Bergen (2017-2019) and funded by the Research Council of Norway
  • research team member in the POLCORE group at Charles University – research on political participation and civic engagement online
  • research project at Microsoft Research New England on the making of physical humor in virtual spaces, supervised by Mary L. Gray and Nancy Baym – results to be submitted to the Television & New Media journal
    methods: open-ended interviews (Skype and face-to-face), qualitative analysis of textual materials
  • research at Charles University focusing on the social history of the gaming community in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic (2009-now)
    methods: oral history interviews, qualitative analysis of textual materials
  • two larger-scale studies of online interactions: a study of language management and multilingualism in online discussion forums, a study of amateur subtitling communities
    methods: online ethnography, qualitative interviews, qualitative analysis of textual materials
  • a study of moral identification in video games (methods: focus group)
  • research assistant to Beth Coleman, Assistant Professor of Writing and New Media at MIT: research on the history of virtual worlds for Dr. Coleman’s book Hello Avatar (2008-2009)

Grants, scholarships, and awards

  • Computer History Museum Prize awarded to the best monograph of the year within the field of history of computing for Gaming the Iron Curtain (2019)
  • J. W. Fulbright Commission scholarship – one year research grant to study Comparative Media Studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, extended by another 6 months (2007-2008)
  • Czech Science Foundation – project co-writer, team member on the grant The Role Of Social Media In Transformation Of Political Communication And Citizen Participation, awarded in 2013

Teaching experience

  • lecturer in game studies and new media and society at Charles University (2009-now) – 5 courses a year, Czech and English
  • lecturer in game studies at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic (2009-2015) – 2-4 courses a year, in Czech
  • lecturer at New York University‘s Prague campus: Business and culture of digital games (2017)
  • lecturer in an EU media literacy program – lecturing and leading workshops with high school teachers


A complete list generated by Zotero follows below. For citations, see my Google Scholar profile.

Švelch, J. (2024). A Story or a Machine?: Revisiting the Work of Bohuslav Blažek, the Czechoslovak Pioneer of Game Studies. In C. Mejeur, A. Karabinus, C. Kocurek, & E. Vossen (Eds.), Historiographies of Game Studies (p. (in production)). Punctum Books.
Švelch, J. (2023). Player vs. monster: the making and breaking of video game monstrosity. MIT Press.
Wasiak, P., & Švelch, J. (2023). Designing Educational and Home Computers in State Socialism: The Polish and Czechoslovak Experience. Journal of Design History, 36(4), 377–393.
Bonello Rutter Giappone, K., Majkowski, T. Z., & Švelch, J. (2022). Ludo-Comedic Consonance: An Introduction to Video Games and Comedy. In K. Bonello Rutter Giappone, T. Z. Majkowski, & J. Švelch (Eds.), Video Games and Comedy (pp. 1–31). Palgrave Macmillan.
Fousek Krobová, T., Janik, J., & Švelch, J. (2022). Summoning Ghosts of Post-Soviet Spaces: A Comparative Study of the Horror Games Someday You’ll Return and the Medium. Studies in Eastern European Cinema, 14(1), 39–52.
Giappone, K. B. R., Majkowski, T. Z., & Švelch, J. (Eds.). (2022). Video Games and Comedy. Palgrave Macmillan.
Švelch, J. (2022). Adopting an Orphaned Platform: The Second Life of the Sharp MZ-800 in Czechoslovakia. In V. Navarro-Remesal & Ó. Pérez-Latorre (Eds.), Perspectives on the European videogame (pp. 91–110). Amsterdam University Press.
Švelch, J. (2022). Manic Miners of the World, Unite!:  How the British Hit Computer Game Got a Second Life in Czechoslovakia. In M. Pajala & A. Lovejoy (Eds.), Remapping Cold War Media: Institutions, Infrastructures, Networks, Exchanges (pp. 117–138). Indiana University Press.
Švelch, J. (2022). Power to the Clones: Hardware and Software Bricolage on the Periphery. In J. Abbate & S. Dick (Eds.), Abstractions and embodiments: new histories of computing and society (pp. 208–228). Johns Hopkins University Press.
Švelch, J., & Švelch, J. (2022). “Definitive playthrough”: Behind-the-scenes narratives in let’s plays and streaming content by video game voice actors. New Media & Society, 24(5), 1097–1115.
Švelch, J., & Švelch, J. (2022). Recasting Life Is Strange: Video Game Voice Acting during the 2016–2017 SAG-AFTRA Strike. Television & New Media, 23(1).
Švelch, J. (2021). Adventures in everyday spaces: Hyperlocal computer games in 1980-1990s Czechoslovakia. In M. Swalwell (Ed.), Game History and the Local (pp. 17–35). Palgrave Macmillan.
Švelch, J. (2021). Czech Republic. In M. J. P. Wolf (Ed.), Encyclopedia of video games: the culture, technology, and art of gaming (Second edition, pp. 236–238). ABC-CLIO.
Švelch, J. (2021). Europe (Central and Eastern). In M. J. P. Wolf (Ed.), Encyclopedia of video games: the culture, technology, and art of gaming (Second edition, pp. 307–310). ABC-CLIO.
Švelch, J. (2021). Promises of the Periphery: Producing Games in the Communist and Transformation-Era Czechoslovakia. In O. Sotamaa & J. Švelch (Eds.), Game Production Studies (pp. 237–255). Amsterdam University Press.
Švelch, J. (2021). Subversion hinter dem Schutzschild des Fortschritts. Spielen und Schreiben von Computerspielen in den Computerclubs der kommunistischen Tschechoslowakei. In Jahrbuch für Historische Kommunismusforschung 2021 (Vol. 2021, pp. 267–282). Metropol.
Švelch, J. (2020). Benjamin Nicoll: Minor Platforms in Videogame History [review]. ICON: The Journal of the International Committee for the History of Technology, 25(2), 186–188.
Švelch, J. (2020). Should the Monster Play Fair?: Reception of Artificial Intelligence in Alien: Isolation. Game Studies, 20(2).
Švelch, J., & Kouba, M. (2020). Indiana Jones Revisits Wenceslas Square: Converting 1980s Czechoslovak Activist Games for Exhibition and Education. ROMchip: A Journal of Game Histories, 2(2).
Švelch, J. (2019). Always Already Monsters—BioShock’s (2007) ‘Splicers’ as Computational Others. Nordlit, 42.
Švelch, J. (2019). Red Stars, Biorhythms, and Circuit Boards: Do-It-Yourself Aesthetics of Computing and Computer Games in Late Socialist Czechoslovakia. In A. Skrodzka, X. Lu, & K. Marciniak (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Communist Visual Cultures (pp. 136–156). Oxford University Press.
Švelch, J. (2019). This Game Has a Message: Subversive Gaming in 1980s Czechoslovakia. Obieg - Magazyn Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej, 3(12).
Švelch, J. (2018). Encoding monsters: “Ontology of the enemy” and containment of the unknown in role-playing games. Philosophy of Computer Games 2018, Copenhagen.
Švelch, J. (2018). Gaming the Iron Curtain: How Teenagers and Amateurs in Communist Czechoslovakia Claimed the Medium of Computer Games. MIT Press.
Švelch, J., & Sherman, T. (2018). “I see your garbage”: Participatory practices and literacy privilege on “Grammar Nazi” Facebook pages in different sociolinguistic contexts. New Media & Society, 20(7), 2391–2410.
Šisler, V., Švelch, J., & Šlerka, J. (2017). Video Games and the Asymmetry of Global Cultural Flows: The Game Industry and Game Culture in Iran and the Czech Republic. International Journal of Communication, 11(0), 3857–3879.
Švelch, J. (2017). Bobbin Threadbare. In J. Banks, R. Mejia, & A. Adams (Eds.), 100 Greatest Video Game Characters (pp. 24–26). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Švelch, J. (2017). Keeping the Spectrum alive: Platform fandom in a time of transition. In M. Swalwell, H. Stuckey, & A. Ndalianis (Eds.), Fans and videogames: histories, fandom, archives (pp. 57–74). Routledge.
Švelch, J. (2017). Manic Miner. In R. Mejia, J. Banks, & A. Adams (Eds.), 100 Greatest Video Game Franchises (pp. 112–113). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Švelch, J., & Štětka, V. (2016). The coup that flopped: Facebook as a platform for emotional protest. First Monday, 21(1).
Bártek, T., Miškov, J., & Švelch, J. (Eds.). (2015). New Perspectives in Game Studies: Proceedings of the Central and Eastern European Game Studies Conference. Masarykova univerzita.
Krobová, T., Moravec, O., & Švelch, J. (2015). Dressing Commander Shepard in pink: Queer playing in a heteronormative game culture. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 9(3).
Sherman, T., & Švelch, J. (2015). “Grammar Nazis never sleep”: Facebook humor and the management of standard written language. Language Policy, 14(4), 315–334.
Švelch, J. (2015). Excuse my poor English: language management in English-language online discussion forums. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2015(232), 143–175.
Švelch, J., & Vochocová, L. (2015). Sociální média jako nová výzva pro výzkum politické participace. Sociologický Časopis, 51(1), 65.
Švelch, J. (2014). Comedy of Contingency: Making Physical Humor in Video Game Spaces. International Journal of Communication, 8, 2530–2552.
Reifová, I., & Švelch, J. (2013). Shrinking the grand narratives in theorizing participation and new media. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 19(3), 261–264.
Švelch, J. (2013). Indiana Jones Fights the Communist Police: Local Appropriation of the Text Adventure Genre in the 1980s Czechoslovakia. In N. B. Huntemann & B. Aslinger (Eds.), Gaming Globally (pp. 163–181). Palgrave Macmillan US.
Švelch, J. (2013). Monsters by the numbers: Controlling monstrosity in video games. In M. Levina & D.-M. T. Bui (Eds.), Monster culture in the 21st century: a reader (pp. 193–208). Bloomsbury Academic.
Švelch, J. (2013). Say it with a Computer Game: Hobby Computer Culture and the Non-entertainment Uses of Homebrew Games in the 1980s Czechoslovakia. Game Studies, 13(2).
Švelch, J. (2013). The delicate art of criticizing a saviour: ‘Silent gratitude’ and the limits of participation in the evaluation of fan translation. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 19(3), 303–310.
Švelch, J. (2012). Bílá místa na mapě herního designu: Rozhovor s Jakubem Dvorským a Jaroslavem Kolářem. Iluminace, 24(2), 89–96.
Švelch, J. (2012). Co nám říká hra: Teoretické a metodologické přístupy k počítačové hře jako expresivnímu médiu. Iluminace, 24(2), 33–48.
Švelch, J. (2012). Hra pro více hráčů: Herní studia a interdisciplinarita. In B. Suwara & Z. Husárová (Eds.), V sieti strednej Európy: nielen o elektronickej literatúre (pp. 125–141). SAP a Ústav svetovej literatúry SAV.
Švelch, J. (2012). Text, příběh a stroj: Digitální textualita a textové počítačové hry v Československu 80. let 20. století. In B. Suwara & Z. Husárová (Eds.), V sieti strednej Európy: nielen o elektronickej literatúre (pp. 157–173). SAP a Ústav svetovej literatúry SAV.
Švelch, J. (2012). Všechny hry, po kterých toužíte: Neformální systémy distribuce počítačových her v Československu v 80. a 90. letech 20. století. In B. Suwara & Z. Husárová (Eds.), V sieti strednej Európy: nielen o elektronickej literatúre (pp. 143–156). SAP a Ústav svetovej literatúry SAV.
Švelch, J. (2011). Amatérský překlad televizních seriálů v sociálním kontextu [Master’s thesis]. Charles University in Prague.
Švelch, J. (2011). Novináři, kteří nepíšou: reprezentace žurnalistiky v počítačových hrách. Komunikace, Média, Společnost, 1(1), 8–18.
Švelch, J. (2011). Přeloženo uživateli: Překlad televizních seriálů jako příklad uživatelsky generovaného obsahu v nových médiích. Pražské Sociálně Vědní Studie, MED-024, 1–36.
Švelch, J. (2011). Smyšlené prostory, skutečné technologie: k historii projektů virtuálních světů. In J. Horáková (Ed.), Umění a nová média (Vydání první, pp. 97–112). Masarykova univerzita.
Švelch, J. (2010). Selling games by the kilo: using oral history to reconstruct informal economies of computer game distribution in the post-communist environment. In Ch. Swertz & M. Wagner (Eds.), Game\Play\Society: contributions to contemporary computer game studies (pp. 265–277). Kopaed.
Švelch, J. (2010). The context of innovation in metaphorical game design: the case of Deus Ex Machina. In C. Klimmt, K. Mitgustsch, & H. Rosensting (Eds.), Exploring the edges of gaming: proceedings of the Vienna Games Conference 2008 - 2009: future and reality of gaming (pp. 303–313). Braumüller.
Švelch, J. (2010). The Good, the Bad, and the Player: The Challenges to Moral Engagement in Single-Player Avatar-Based Video Games. In Schrier, Karen & Gibson, David (Eds.), Ethics and Game Design: Teaching values through play (pp. 52–68). Information Science Reference.
Švelch, J. (2009). The pleasurable lightness of being: Interface, mediation and meta-narrative in Lucasfilm’s Loom. Eludamos. Journal for Computer Game Culture, 3(1), 95–102.
Švelch, J. (2008). Počítačové hry jako nová média. Mediální Studia, 3(1), 8–35.
Švelch, J. (2008). What you can’t see is what you don’t get: paradigms of game world visualization. Proceedings of the 2008 Conference on Future Play: Research, Play, Share, 212–215.
Švelch, J. (2008, September 5). The End Of Gamers? Reconstructing the hard core identity. Convergence Culture Consortium.
Švelch, J. (2007). Počítačové hry a jejich místo v mediálních studiích. Pražské Sociálně Vědní Studie, MED-009, 1–66.

Selected lectures and keynotes

  • Mar 2019 – Stanford University | Gaming The Iron Curtain: The Subversive Computer Game Culture of 1980s Czechoslovak Paramilitary Clubs
  • Jul 2018 – Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) 2018 conference, Torino | Keynote speech – Coding Acts: Games as Messages in 1980s Czechoslovakia
  • May 2018 – Cologne Game Lab | We have always been indie: Making computer games in Communist-era Czechoslovakia
  • Mar 2018 – MIT Game Lab | Video game monsters: Simulating the unknown
  • Sep 2017 – Future and Reality of Games conference, Vienna | Keynote speech – We have always been indie: Lessons from social history of game making in 1980s Czechoslovakia
  • March 2016 – University of California, Santa Barbara | Computer Games as Resistance in Soviet Era Czechoslovakia: A Heritage of Political Participation through Game Design
  • March 2015 – Concordia University, Montreal | Games as Resistance in the 1980s Czechoslovakia: A Pragmatic Approach to the Study of “Political” Games
  • June 2014 – ITU Copenhagen | What 1980s Czechoslovak digital games can tell us about the medium: Theoretical challenges and contributions of local game histories
  • Dec 2012 – MIT Game Lab | Comedy of Contingency: Making Physical Humor in Virtual Game Spaces
  • Nov 2012 – NYU Game Center | The Unintended Avant-garde – Two stories from 1980s European game development

Other work

  • game journalist – Level magazine, since 2013
  • music journalist  – Spark magazine, since 2001; Rock&Pop magazine, 2006-2008, 2010-2011;, 2008-2010, Full Moon magazine (occasional contributor)
  • translator (English into Czech and Czech into English)
  • independent musician and songwriter (with the band Rest In Haste, co-founded in 2006)

Online presence

  • @raguklemenso on Twitter
  • – academic blog since 2011
  • – academic blog about game studies since 2008, now inactive

Language proficiencies

  • Czech – native, Slovak – passive, Polish – passive (reading only)
  • English – near native
  • German – intermediate

Fields of interest

  • digital games history
  • video game monsters
  • games and morality
  • new media
  • social media
  • ethics in new media and digital games
  • online sociolinguistics and language management
  • media history
  • user generated content and amateur translation

Publications for download (pre-print versions of non-open-access work)