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Dr Nick Ballou

Queen Mary University of London

Hi there! I’m a psychology and human-computer interaction researcher interested in two main topics: how games affect wellbeing, and how we can reform the research ecosystem to be more trustworthy and efficient (aka “open science” or “metascience”). I’m originally from the US, and have bachelor and master’s degrees in linguistics, a topic that prepared me well for social science research, but whose use is relegated to excitedly sharing language fun facts at this point. In my free time, I play tennis, cook and bake, read—and of course play games (mostly deckbuilders, roguelikes, and AAA RPGs).


A description of Nick's research:


Psychological need frustration—experiences of feeling controlled and coerced, failure and self-doubt, or loneliness and exclusion—is a promising framework for understanding how players engage with video games. Grounded in self-determination theory, one of the most robust psychological theories, need frustration might help explain how and why players (dis)engage with a game and how gameplay impacts well-being.

To realize this aim, however, we’re missing key building blocks: 1) a better grasp on when and why need-frustrating situations arise during play; 2) a questionnaire that can assess how much need frustration people experience in games quantitatively; and 3) studies that combine data on need frustration with carefully tracked behavioral data over time, rather than relying on simple self-reports like “how much time did you spend playing video games last week?” My thesis attempts to address all of these one step at a time and is underpinned by a strong emphasis on open and transparent methods. Results so far are promising—contact me to hear more!

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Dr Nick Ballou

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