A little more detail about who I am and why I study what I study.
I wrote this a long time ago to give a more colorful background than can be found in a CV, as my path to this current field of research is a bit windy. I grew up in Hanover, NH, USA as an only child alongside our Jack Russell terrier, Thomas. Gaming was always a big part of my life, from Harry Potter Quidditch World Cup to Call of Duty to Super Smash Bros and more. During my childhood and early adolescence, I experienced times in which video games were a crucial, healthy outlet for me to develop my social skills and experience a sense of mastery and autonomy. At other times, however, I definitely exhibited signs of dysregulation.
It did not occur to me at this point, however, that this would be worth studying. For financial and misguided romantic reasons, I ended up at Tulane University in New Orleans for my bachelor. My original plan at Tulane was to design my own major in enigmatology, the study of puzzles, as my dream was to succeed Will Shortz as the New York Times crossword puzzle editor. This plan died a natural death in my sophomore year, at which point I took my fascination of puzzles and applied it to the enigma of language, graduating with a BS in linguistics and environmental studies in 2016.
This, unsurprisingly, did not lead to recruiters banging down my door upon graduation, so I chose to take something of a gap year and move to Vienna, where I put my German to use and worked as an au pair for a wonderful family. I took this time to develop my academic interests and put together my applications, eventually accepting an offer at the University of Cambridge. In 2018, I completed an MPhil in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, where my research involved phonetics, automated learner assessment, and computer-assisted language learning (CALL).
At this point, I had begun to really like the research process–and believed that I could be good at it–but wasn’t seeing the meaningful connection between my work and the real world. A lot of linguistics seemed too much like an intellectual exercise for those capable of doing it. I began exploring research in other areas, and found myself delving into some of the seminal game psychology papers. To my surprise, I saw a disproportionate amount of research focused on elements of the games themselves, and not nearly enough on the relationship between players and their gaming. I had seen firsthand the range of impact games can have, but when I looked at the literature, I saw a lack of nuance occasionally slipping into outright demonization.
With some encouragement, I started to believe that I really could pursue research in these areas, and make up with diligent study what I lacked in psychology background. I knew I needed more time to settle on my precise research interests, however, so my partner and I moved to Hong Kong, where I worked as an English teacher at a public primary school. In addition to the obvious incredible travel opportunities, the job presented me with sufficient free time to continue reading up on video game psychology, developing my statistical methods, and also discover my interest in meta-science and reproducibility. In between lessons, I polished up my PhD applications and sent them off in early 2019.
Which brings us to today. I was offered a place at Queen Mary University of London with the Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence (IGGI), a program with more than 60 PhD students researching every imaginable aspect of games (AI in games, music, narrative design, psychology, health, and much more). It’s been a great fit, and a program I can highly recommend to others: I’ve had excellent support from colleagues, supervisors, and administration.
In my free time, you can find me watching football (Arsenal), American football (Patriots), baseball (Red Sox), hockey (Bruins), or really whatever sport is on at that time of year. I also play tennis. My favorite games of all time include The Last of Us, Stardew Valley, and Hearthstone.