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INTERVIEW: Dr. Rachel Kowert

Dr. Rachel Kowert

Since our re-vamp and re-launch of Gamactica Women our focus has branched out into other sectors of the content and gaming industries, spotlighting and boosting visibility for the women doing great work in within the space.

Doing so, in part, not only allows for expanded networking and connectivity pathways, but also brings more conversations to the shared space, and allows for more discussion on the topics that are important to the present, and future, of the industry as a whole.

One such conversation has been the importance of mental health and positive behaviors within the gaming space. These are areas that Dr. Rachel Kowert has spent much of her career, in fields such as psychology (PHD) and Counseling (MA), within.

Dr. Kowert is a world-renowned researcher, and author, on the uses and effects of digital games, including their impact on physical, social, and psychological well-being, important conversations that need to take place more loudly, and frequently, as the industry grows.

“I have always been an advocate for mental health. As soon as I started University, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in psychology to help others better understand themselves as well as to better advocate for themselves” Dr. Kowert told me, in an exclusive interview. “Flash forward through many years of graduate school, and I had a MA in counseling and a PhD in psychology, where my thesis focused on the social impact of online games. Take This perfectly marries my interests and education with their mission of mental health advocacy among gaming communities and the gaming industry.”

This journey took Dr. Kowert to Take This, where she serves as a research psychologist and the Research Director.

“I ended up at Take This as their research director through a series of fortunate events” she said. “I was speaking on a Take This panel at PAX East, where I first met their clinical director, Dr. B. He had let me know they were expanding their scope into research and I took advantage of the opportunity by putting myself forward for the position. The rest is history.”

“This happened very organically, especially the emphasis on industry. Take This works extensively with organizations within the gaming industry. At Take This, we regularly conduct workshops for the games industry – about diversity and representation, how to cope with crisis, how to instill culture change, among others – and also work collaboratively on research and public outreach campaigns.”

After a year that included a public call for streaming platforms, such as Twitch, to address hate raids and toxicity more efficiently, Dr. Kowert has seen some positive movement as the 2022 year takes shape.

“These conversations are finally moving “up the chain” so to say to the decision makers” Dr. Kowert said. “These kinds of behaviors and cultures have always existed within gaming communities, game adjacent spaces, and the industry itself. I am optimistic that the industry is starting to make tangible change to make the industry, and gaming communities, safer places for everyone. This has already started with the release of the publication of the Disruption and Harm in Gaming Framework published by the Fair Play Alliance, which was developed with support from industry members.”

Dr. Kowert is a gamer and content creator as well, often participating in the Take This Twitch channel, and running her own YouTube channel as well. Dr. Kowert’s YouTube channel is the home of her Psychgeist series that explores the science of games, and is incredibly insightful.

“I would love to reach broader audiences in 2022” Dr. Kowert says of her goals for the New Year. “As a creator of content largely centered on science and research, it can sometimes get lost in the niche corners of the internet. I am developing some new programs for my YouTube channel to broaden the scope and (hopefully) entice more people to come along and learn about the science of games”

Being a content creator and gamer, Dr. Kowert knows how things such as burnout can impact gamers and content creators as they pour so many hours into their content.

“Burnout is a huge problem in games – from those working in the industry, to esports players, to content creators. I think one of the first steps to helping mitigate burnout is creating solid boundaries around work and leisure. It is very easy for the boundaries to blur when you are working and playing in the same spaces… mentally and physically. When COVID quarantine began, the first thing I did was move my computer workspace to an area separate and dedicated to work so I know that when I am in that space, I am there for work.

Then, I purchased a secondary keyboard and mouse so when I want to use my computer for leisure (I’ve been playing Unpacking recently), I swap out the keyboard and mouse to change the space for “leisure” to further reiterate those boundaries.

Lastly, I scheduled work and leisure time in my calender. It is really easy to think you need to be ‘on’ on the time when you (theoretically) have all of the tools you need at your disposal… all the time. Having clear spaces and setting schedules for work and leisure are a good first step to challenging that idea.”

Dr. Kowert also hopes that women in the industry, such as gamers, executives, creators, esports players, and female streamers can continue to make a bigger impact in the industry this year.

“Women have been leaving their mark on the industry for decades but amplifying our voices and efforts is seemingly an uphill battle” Dr. Kowert says.

“My hope is that we continue to see advocacy for fairness and equality in gaming spaces so these voices do get the attention they merit. Male allies can help this process by amplifying our voices as well as diminishing those who would seek to further marginalize and silence anyone who doesn’t fit the classic cis-gender, male heterosexual gamer stereotype.”

Dr. Kowert is doing incredible, and important work in the industry, especially through Take This. It is important that we support efforts such as Dr. Kowert’s to better understand and address th existing issues within a constantly growing, and evolving, industry.

Check out Dr. Kowert’s profile on Gamactica Women, and connect with her on Gamactica

Follow Dr. Kowert on Twitter

Visit Dr. Kowert’s Official website

Dr. Kowert on Google Scholar

 

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