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Staff Profile

Matt Coward-Gibbs

Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology

Staff profile image of Matt Coward-Gibbs

I am a Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology, Course Lead for the Foundation Year in Law and Social Sciences, and the Technical Director of Previously, I have worked across departments in both the social sciences and the humanities. My research favours small-scale sociological and ethnographic approaches which I frame through a cultural and interactionist lens. I am interested in a range of areas; however, I am primarily concerned with the relationship between play (or pleasure or fun) and the social world. My current work considers analog gaming in the UK, gaming and mental health, gaming and education and the relationships between deviance and play.


I have been teaching in Higher Education since 2015. In that time, I have taught across: Sociology, Criminology, Religious Studies, and Professional Policing. Currently, I teach on:

  • Exploring Society (SSC3001M)
  • Problem-based Project (SSC3005M)
  • Contextualising Law and Social Science (SSC3006M)
  • Communicating Ideas (SSC4002M)
  • Pleasure, Leisure and Social Interaction (SOC4006M)
  • Cultural Criminology (CRI5006M)
  • Death (SOC6007M)
  • Crime and Media (CRI6003M)
  • Advanced Social Research Methods 2 (SSC7002M)


My research is primarily focused at the intersections of four main areas:

(1) pleasure and leisure
(2) culture and community
(3) death and dying
(4) deviance and transgression

Publications and conferences

Edited books

Coward-Gibbs, M (ed.). 2020. Death, Culture and Leisure: Playing Dead. Bingley: Emerald.

Journal special editions

Starkey, C., and Coward-Gibbs, M. 2018. Translating Buddhism and the Politics of Ownership: Between Asia(s) and West(s). Journal of Global Buddhism 19.

Journal articles and review essays

Spokes, M., Denham, J., Coward-Gibbs, M., and Veal, C. 2024. ‘I Wasn’t Me, Grieving in my Room. I was Spiderman’: Gaming, Loss and Self-Care following Covid-19. Mortality. [open access]

Denham, J., Spokes, M., Coward-Gibbs, M., and Veal, C. 2023. Personal, Pedagogic Play: A Dialogic Model for Video Game Learning. Pedagogy, Culture & Society. [open access]

Coward-Gibbs, M. 2021. Why Don’t We Play Pandemic? UK Analog Gaming Communities in LockdownLeisure Sciences

O’Neill, M., Penfold-Mounce, R., Honeywell, D., Coward-Gibbs, M., Crowder, H., and Hill, I. 2020. Creative Methodologies for a Mobile Criminology: Walking as Critical PedagogySociological Research Online.

Coward-Gibbs, M. 2018. Critical Spelunking of Casual Toxicities: Patching Gaming CultureInformation, Communication & Society 22(14).

Coward-Gibbs, M. 2018. Of Demons and Drama: Ritual Syncretism of Sinhala Exorcism and Forum Theatre. Journal of Global Buddhism 19.

Starkey, C., and Coward-Gibbs, M. 2018. Translating Buddhism and the Politics of Ownership. Journal of Global Buddhism 19.

Coward, M. 2016. Religious Flows and Ritual Performance: East Asian Interpretations of Shakespearian Tragedy. Paranthropology 7(1).

Coward, M. 2015. Capturing Spirituality: A Photo-Elicitation Study with Two British Neo-Pagans. Paranthropology 6(1)

Coward, M. (2014). The Witch from His-Story to Her-Stories: Changing Contexts. Paranthropology 5(3).

Chapters in edited books

Coward-Gibbs, M. 2024. The Magic Circle. In: Gregory, D. What Board Games Mean to Me: Tales from the Tabletop. Nottingham: Aconyte.

Coward-Gibbs, M. 2022. Why don’t we play Pandemic? UK Analog Gaming Communities in Lockdown. In: Lashua, B., Johnson, C.W., and Parry, D.C (eds.). Leisure in the time of Coronavirus: A Rapid Response. New York: Routledge.

Coward-Gibbs, M., and Michael-Fox, B. 2021. Sexual Encounters Between the Living and the (Un)dead in Popular Culture. In: Gibson, R., and VanderVeen, J (eds.). Monstrous Males/Fatal Females: Gender, Supernatural Beings, and the Liminality of Death. Maryland: Lexington Books.

Coward-Gibbs, M. 2020. Some Games You Just Can’t Win: Crowdfunded Memorialisation, Grief and That Dragon, Cancer. In: Coward-Gibbs, M (ed.). Death, Culture and Leisure: Playing Dead. Bingley: Emerald.

Coward-Gibbs, M. 2020. Death ≠ Failure. In: Coward-Gibbs, M (ed.). Death, Culture and Leisure: Playing Dead. Bingley: Emerald.

Select book reviews

Coward-Gibbs, M. 2021. Videogames and Horror: From Amnesia to Zombies, Run! (Dawn Stobbart). Fantastika. Invited.

Coward, M. 2018. Death Makes the News: How the Media Sensor and Display the Dead (Jessica M Fishman). Canadian Journal of Sociology 43(2). Invited.

Coward, M. 2018. Spirits Without Boarders: Vietnamese Spirit mediums in a Transnational Age (Karen Fjelstad and Nguyễn Thị Hiền). The Pomegranate: International Journal of Pagan Studies 20(1). Invited.

Coward, M. 2016. Buddhism, the Internet and Digital Media: The Pixel in the Lotus (Gregory Price Grieve and Daniel Veidlinger, eds.). Journal of Religion, Media and Digital Culture 5(2).

Invited talks

Coward-Gibbs, M. 2023. Surface Tensions: Why What we Play on Matters. Tabletop Gaming Research Showcase. Birmingham: UK Games Expo.

Coward-Gibbs, M. 2023. Panel Member. Talking About Books About Games. Birmingham: UK Games Expo. (co-panellists: Ivan Brett, Christopher Eggett, Charlotte Llewelyn-Wells, and James Wallis)

Coward-Gibbs, M. 2021. Panel Member. Gaming while Queer. York: University of York, Department of Psychology. (co-panellists: Blair Durkee and Frazer Heritage)

Coward-Gibbs, M. 2020. The Esoteric Knowledge of Analog Games. Birmingham: UK Games Expo (virtual)

Coward-Gibbs, M. 2020. Keynote Roundtable Discussant. The Conference at the End of the World. Alt-ac (virtual). (co-panellists: Meg-John Barker, Sitna Quiroz and David Robertson).

Coward-Gibbs, M. 2020. Analog Gaming’s Second-Hand Markets. Harrogate: AireCon 6.

Coward-Gibbs, M. 2019. Analog UK: Tabletop Gaming in the 21st Century. Birmingham: UK Games Expo.

Coward-Gibbs, M. 2019. An Encounter with Buddhist Death Rituals. York: York Dead Good Festival.

Coward-Gibbs, M. 2019. UK Tabletop Gaming Communities. Harrogate: AireCon 5.

Professional activities

Professional accreditation: I am a registered Mental Health First Aider (Mental Health England), Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), and Technology Enhanced Learning (SEDA STEL) practitioner.

Professional roles: I am a Governor of Furness College and Chair of Furness College's Learner Experience Committee. Previously, I was a steering group member of the Death & Culture Network (2018-2023), the Company Secretary of the Cambridge Primary Review Trust (2015-2019), Board Member of the UK Association for Buddhist Studies (2013-2015) and a Trustee of Upstage Centre Youth Theatre (2012-2016).

Events: I have been involved in convening a number of events, including: Death & Culture IV (2022); Spelunking 2020: Games, Cultures, Societies (2020); Death & Culture III (2020); Interdisciplinary Approaches to Corpse Work (2019); Walking Amongst the Dead: The York Death & Culture Walk (2019); The Promise and Perils of Researching Sensitive Issues (2018); Death & Culture II (2018); York’s Dark Past: Crime, Punishment, and Justice (2018); Playing Dead (2018); Primary Education: What is and what might be (2016); and Translating Buddhism (2016).

Funding: I have been part of successful grant applications from funding bodies including: the Institute for Social Justice, the Screen Industries Growth Network (x2), British Sociological Association (x2), Research Centre for Social Sciences (x3), UTC, University of York (x2), UK Association for Buddhist Studies, and the Spalding Trust.