Dr. Michael James Heron

My name is Michael James Heron, and I'm a lecturer at Robert Gordon University. This page serves as a container for all the various things with which I'm involved. My research interests are accessibility, games, and especially accessibility in games. You can see my published work here.

As an academic with a strong interest in the Scottish Independence Referendum, I was also part of the team who developed RGU's twitter analysis tool. It may have been a 'no' in the end, but the fight goes on.

I have taught for a decade in both further and higher education, and some of my teaching materials can be found at my wiki. I am also the owner, admin and lead developer of Epitaph: a text-based MMO set in the grim darkness of the zombie apocalypse.

I am also the editor for Meeple Like Us, a board game blog with a strong focus on the accessibility of tabletop games. If you have any questions on that topic, feel free to ask them at my ask.fm page.. I occasionally blog too over on Gamasutra.


My primary research interests are in accessibility, computer games, and accessibility in computer games.  I believe inclusivity in technology to be one of the most important elements for ensuring that all members of society can participate equally within the emerging digital economy, and that lack of access to technology can be stigmatizing, especially when considering younger individuals and entertainment technology (Heron, 2012; Vickers, Istance and Heron, 2013). I am also an academic critic of video games, with some of my thoughts outlined in Heron (2015a); Heron and Belford (2015a); Heron and Belford (2014b) and Heron and Belford (2014c).

Linked to this is an ongoing interest in computer ethics, social responsibility, and professional issues. My work on that topic can be found, in part, in Heron and Belford (2014a), Heron and Belford (2015b), Heron and Belford (2015c) and Heron and Belford (2015d). Much of my work in other areas includes a strong dose of ethic and moral investigation even when it is not the primary focus.

My current research focuses on expanding the technical framework described in Heron (2011) and Heron, Hanson and Ricketts (2013a, 2013b, 2013c) to include more streams of input and more configuration choices over more operating systems and contexts.  I am also investigating the potential of text-based systems such as interactive fiction and multi-user dungeons to offer genuinely accessible environments for gameplay (Heron, 2015b; Spiel, Bertel & Heron, 2014; Heron, 2013; Heron and Townsend, 2013).


  1. Heron, M.J. (in press). Pacman's Canon in C#: A Quantum Interpretation of Video Game Canon. The Computer Games Journal. TBD. Springer: New York.
  2. Heron, M.J. (in press). Ethics in Computer Science. In The Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Technology. Taylor and Francis, Oxford. Forthcoming.
  1. Heron, M.J., Belford, P. (2016b). The Quantified University: An Analysis of the Scandal in Academia. Computers and Society. 46 (3). pp28-44. ACM, New York. [Available online from http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=3024953]
  2. Heron, M.J. (2016). Editorial: Cultural Integration and the Accessibility of Gaming. The Computer Games Journal. 5 (3). pp91-94. Springer: New York. [Available online from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40869-016-0028-x].
  3. Heron, M.J. (2016). Ethical and Professional Complications in the Construction of Multi-Developer Hobbyist Games. The Computer Games Journal. Springer: New York. [Available online from http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s40869-016-0025-0]
  4. Heron, M.J., Belford, P. (2016a). Musings on Misconduct: A Practitioner Reflection of the Ethical Investigation of Plagiarism within Programming Modules. Computers and Society. 45 (3). ACM, New York. pp438-444. [Available online from http://dl.acm.org/authorize?N08508]
  1. Heron, M.J., Belford, P. (2015d). Fuzzy Ethics: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bot. Computers and Society. 45(4). pp4-6. ACM, New York. [Available online from http://dl.acm.org/authorize?N08509]
  2. Heron, M.J., Belford, P. (2015c). A Practitioner's Reflection on Teaching Computer Ethics with Case Studies and Psychology.  Brooks' eJournal of Learning and Teaching.  7 (1).  Oxford Broooks, Oxford. [Available online at http://bejlt.brookes.ac.uk/paper/a-practitioner-reflection-on-teaching-computer-ethics-with-case-studies-and-psychology/].
  3. Heron, M.J., Belford, P. (2015b). Power and Perception in the Scandal in Academia. Computers and Society. 45 (2). ACM, New York. [Available online from http://dl.acm.org/authorize?N08500]
  4. Heron, M.J., Belford, P. (2015a). All of your Co-Workers are Gone:    Story, Substance, and the Empathic Puzzler.  The Journal of Games Criticism. 2 (1). United States. [Available online at http://gamescriticism.org/articles/heronbelford-2-1]
  5. Heron, M.J. (2015c). Review: Rachel Kowert, Thorsten Quandt (eds): The Video Game Debate — Unravelling the Physical, Social and Psychological Effects of Digital Games. The Computer Games Journal. 4 (3). pp187-188. Springer: New York. [Available online at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40869-015-0014-8"]
  6. Heron, M.J. (2015b). A Case Study Into the Accessibility of Text-Parser Based Interaction. The Seventh ACM SIGHCI Symposium on Engineering Interactive Computing Systems. Duisburg, Germany. [Available online at http://dl.acm.org/authorize?N93958].
  7. Heron, M.J. (2015a). Everybody's Talking About Pop Music:  the Evolution of the Cinematic Video Game.  The Computer Games Journal. Springer: New York. [Available online from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40869-015-0001-0]
  8. Pederson, S., Baxter, G., Burnett, S., MacLeod, I., Goker, A., Heron, M.J., Isaacs, J., Elyan, E., Kaliciak, L. (2015). Twitter response to televised political debates in Election 2015. In: D. Jackson and E. Thorsen, eds. UK Election Analysis 2015: Media, Voters and the Campaign; Early reflections from leading UK academics. Bournemouth: Centre for the Study of Journalism, Culture and Community, Bournemouth University. p. 73. [Available online at https://openair.rgu.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/10059/1334/Baxter%20UK%20Election%202015%20Twitter.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y]
  9. Tyack, C., Camic, P., Heron, M.J., Hulbert, S. (2015). Viewing art on a touchscreen computer for people with dementia and their carers: a mixed-methods study. Journal of Applied Gerontology. [Available online from http://create.canterbury.ac.uk/14021/].
  1. Heron, M.J., Belford, P., Goker, A. (2014).  Sexism in the Circuitry: Female Participation in Male Dominated Popular Computer Culture. Computers and Society. 44 (4). ACM, New York.  [Available online at http://dl.acm.org/authorize?N84609]
  2. Heron, M.J., Belford, P. (2014a).  Ethics in Context: A Scandal in Academia.  Computers and Society.  44 (2). ACM, New York.  [Available online at http://dl.acm.org/authorize?N84600]
  3. Heron, M.J., Belford, P. (2014b). Do You Feel Like A Hero Yet?  Externalised Morality in Video Games.  The Journal of Game Criticism.  1(2).  United States.  [Available online at http://gamescriticism.org/articles/heronbelford-1-2]
  4. Heron, M.J., Belford, P. (2014c). It’s Only A Game: Ethics, Empathy and Identification in Game Morality Systems. The Computer Games Journal. 3(1). Scotland. [Available online at http://tcjg.weebly.com/uploads/9/3/8/5/9385844/tcgj_31_heronbelford.pdf]
  5. Spiel, K., Bertel, S., Heron, M.J. (2014).  Navigation and Immersion of Blind Players in Text-Based Games.  The Computer Games Journal 3 (2a).  pp. 132-154. [Available online at http://tcjg.weebly.com/spiel-et-al.html]
  1. Heron, M.J., Hanson, V.L, & Ricketts, I. (2013a). The Technical Design of the ACCESS Framework. The Fifth ACM SIGHCI Symposium on Engineering Interactive Computing Systems. London, England. [Available online at http://dl.acm.org/authorize?N71670]
  2. Townsend, J, Heron, M.J. (2013). Authorship and Autership in the Collaborative Development Process of Text-Based Games. Chercher le Text: Locating the Text in Electronic Literature. Paris, France. [Available online at http://tinyurl.com/mk6v3k2]
  3. Heron, M.J., Hanson, V.L, & Ricketts, I. (2013b). Accessibility Support for Older Adults with the ACCESS Framework. The International Journal of Human Computer Interaction. Seattle, Washington. [Available online at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10447318.2013.768139?journalCode=hihc20#.UYlZAbXvsyg]
  4. Heron, M.J., Hanson, V.L, & Ricketts, I. (2013c). Open Source and Accessibility: Advantages and Limitations. The Journal of Interaction Science. 1(1). Cambridge, England. [Available online at http://www.journalofinteractionscience.com/content/1/1/2]
  5. Heron, M.J (2013). Likely to be Eaten by a Grue. The Computer Games Journal. 2(1), Scotland. [Available online at http://tcjg.weebly.com/heron-text-games.html]
  6. Vickers, S., Istance, H., Heron, M.J. (2013). Accessible Gaming for People with Physical and Cognitive Disabilities: A Framework for Dynamic Adaptation. Conference of Human Computer Interaction 2013. Seattle, Washington.  [Available online at http://dl.acm.org/authorize?N71672]
  1. Heron, M.J (2012). Inaccessible Through Oversight: The Need for Inclusive Game Design. The Computer Games Journal 1(1). Glasgow, Scotland. [Available online at http://tcjg.weebly.com/heron.html]
  1. Heron, M.J., Hanson, V., & Ricketts, I. (2011). Accessibility Support with the ACCESS Framework. Digital Engagement ’11. Newcastle, United Kingdom.
  2. Heron, M.J. (2011). The ACCESS Framework: Reinforcement Learning for Accessibility and Cognitive Support for Older Adults (Doctoral dissertation). [Available online at http://hdl.handle.net/10588/4902]
  1. Heron, M.J. & Bown, J. (2003). Searching Trait Space. Poster session presented at the European Conference on Artificial Life ’03. Dortmund, Germany.

Public Presentations

  1. 2015, The talk that Pauline Belford and I delivered at Ethicomp 2015.
  2. 2015, My (undelivered) EICS 2015 talk on text parser accessibility.
  3. 2013, The talk I gave at ELO 2013 in Paris.
  4. 2013, The talk I gave at EICS 2013 in London.
  5. 2011, The talk I gave at Digital Engagement 2011 in Newcastle.


I have developed, designed and led (or team-led) modules in the various topics pitched at all parts of the higher and further education curriculum.  I have been involved in all aspects from the level of Scottish Higher to taught Masters.

My main teaching experience is in the areas of programming and software engineering with a focus on object orientation and event driven programming.  Languages for which I have developed courses include Java, C#, Visual Basic .NET, PHP, C, C++, Javascript, jQuery and Dalvik on Android.

I also have considerable experience in delivering modules on architectural issues of software engineering such as UML, systems analysis and design, component based programming, distributed architectures and UML.  Along with this I have developed modules on project management and agile methodologies.

In addition to this, I have much experience in developing content in the ‘softer’ topics such as professional issues, ethical issues and legal issues relating to computing.  I have similarly developed and taught modules on issues of human computer interaction, accessibility and user interface design.

Several dozen of my lectures are available for viewing over at Slideshare.

Over the years I have worked as a teaching assistant, teaching fellow, lecturer or senior lecturer at the University of Abertay Dundee; what was then called Edinburgh's Telford College; the University of Dundee; Canterbury Christ Church University; and Robert Gordon University.

I am currently responsible for the following modules at Robert Gordon University:

Previously I have taught the following modules at RGU:

Supervision (Honours and Masters level) specialities tend to include games development and design, as well as issues of general web development.

I have provided consultancy services for external partners in areas related to my teaching on several occasions, mainly focusing on the development of mobile apps for healthcare, gamification and wellbeing purposes.  I also act as a consultant for various education organisations, acting as an external examiner and occasional materials developer.

Those looking to obtain my services in these areas should contact me directly at m.j.heron1@rgu.ac.uk..



Non Academic Public Output


  1. Bioshock: Infinite and the Anachronistic Reinvention (2016). Gamasutra.
  2. Hunt the Syntax, Part One (2016). Gamasutra.
  3. Hunt the Syntax, Part Two (2016). Gamasutra.
  4. Clementine - A Truly Great Video Game Character (2016). Gamasutra.
  5. The Tomb Raider Franchise (2016). Gamasutra.
  6. Meeple Centred Design (2016). Gamasutra.
  7. On Board Game Accessibility (2016). Gamasutra.

Imaginary Realities

  1. The Mercurial Temperament at the End of the World (2015).  Imaginary Realities 7(3).
  2. The Worlds in Which we Wander (2015).  Imaginary Realities 7(1).
  3. Saddle Up - A Personal Story about Riding Your Demon to Success (2014).  Imaginary Realities 6(1).
  4. The Hunger Game, or How I Learned To Break the Ship from the Bottle (2013).   Imaginary Realities, 5(1).

Old Blog Posts

  1. What Kind of Year has it Been?, archived blog posting.
  2. Professor Spurr and the Social Context of Offense, archived blog posting.
  3. The Bad Review, archived blog posting.
  4. The Dark Mark, archived blog posting.
  5. In Defence of the Lecture, archived blog posting.
  6. The Quantification of Education, archived blog posting.
  7. Breakdown of an Artist, archived blog posting.
  8. Writing Papers: A Case Study, archived blog posting.


  1. It’s time to turn grumbles about inaccessibility in board games into a roar, Tabletop Gaming Magazine.

Conference and Journal Committees

  1. Computers and Society, Area Editor for Computer Ethics.
  2. ELO 2015, Research Program.
  3. EANN 2016, Local Committee Chair.
  4. EANN 2016, Web Chair.


  1. Meeple Like Us Works to Tear Down Accessibility Barriers in Games (2016) - G&S Coverage of Meeple Like Us.
  2. RGU researchers team up with BBC to improve digital game accessibility (2016) - Some newspaper coverage on a collaboration with BBC R&D on video game accessibility.
  3. SocialSensor: Sensing political content in social media streams (2016) - a short blog post for the Newsletter of the BCS Information Retrieval Specialist Group.
  4. Do academic social networks share academics’ interests? (2016) - I have a short quote in this article.
  5. My various amazon reviews (ongoing). Amazon. Feel free to throw in a few helpful votes if you like.
  6. How to survive a PhD viva: 17 Top Tips (2015).   The Guardian.


Date News
25/01/2016 Added authorizer links for my last three ACM papers.
17/12/2015 Added newly published response piece on killer robots, as well as my review of The Video Game Debate and a short paper on social media and the UK general election
24/09/2015 Fixed ACM Authorizer for papers (don't know why they broke) and added a link to my EICS2015 paper.
09/09/2015 Added a link to the Ethicomp 2015 talk that Pauline Belford and I delivered.
09/09/2015 Added a link to my new Oxford Brooks eJournal article.
05/08/2015 Added a link to my new Imaginary Realities article.
04/08/2015 Added a link to my new Computers and Society Paper.
30/06/2015 Added a font-awesome icon for my steam profile.
25/06/2015 Added academicon links to Google Scholar, Orcid and Academia.edu.
25/06/2015 Put up links to my previous conference talks.
25/06/2015 My paper for EICS 2015 is now available, A case study into the accessibility of text-parser based interaction.
25/06/2015 My paper for the newly relaunched Springer version of the Computer Games Journal went online, with the title Everybody's Talking About Pop Music: The Evolution of the Cinematic Video Game.
22/06/2015 Joined the review panel for the Journal of Games Criticism.
25/01/2015 Provided ACM Authorizer access to last two papers published in the digital library, and updated the authorizer links to the other two.
21/01/2015 My paper on Dear Esther, the Stanley Parable, Gone Home and the Walking Dead was published in the Journal of Games Criticism.
13/01/2015 Converted larger blog posts over into articles, and made them available as linkedin posts as linked below.
11/01/2015 New web page live. Aw jeah.
08/01/2015 Provided some viva advice for The Guardian.
30/11/2014 My paper on Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian and the misogyny of Gamergate was published in ACM's Computers and Society 44 (4).

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