Nick Ballou

We know that video games can offer highly rewarding and enjoyable experiences that support a person’s well-being, but that they are also sometimes used to compensate for certain aspects of people’s day-to-day life that are lacking, and that this may be associated—though not necessarily causally—with negative functional (e.g. academic performance, interpersonal conflict) or psychosocial (e.g., depression, loneliness) consequences. This pattern of having difficulties controlling one’s video game is called dysregulated gaming (also referred to as problematic gaming, gaming disorder, and gaming addiction), but our understanding of the condition is still unclear in many ways and suffers from both an ongoing moral panic around games and a lack of high-quality, transparent, and reproducible research.

In my research, I look at this issue in the context of motivational psychology. I am especially interested in how dysregulated gaming may be connected to self-determination theory’s three basic psychological needs, namely autonomy (the need to feel in control over one’s life), competence (the need to feel effective in one’s actions), and relatedness (the need to feel caring and cared for by others). My work will use a combination of cross-sectional and experimental methods to compare the degree to which people’s basic needs are satisfied or frustrated in daily life compared to when they play video games. Implicated in this work is addressing some of the conceptual and psychometric shortcomings of existing measures of need satisfaction/frustration.