About Rachel

Rachel Kowert, Ph.D is a research psychologist with over 15 years of research, education, and advocacy experience around the uses and effects of games, with a special focus on issues related to mental well-being. For the last five years, her work has primarily focused on issues related to trust and safety in digital game and game-adjacent spaces to better inform game makers, game players, other policy stakeholders about the risks and contributions these digital mediums offer.  She has spoken about her work to thousands of people across the globe, including the United States Congress, United Nations, and Department of Homeland Security. An award-winning author, she has published a variety of books and scientific articles relating to the psychology of games and, more recently, the relationship between games and mental health specifically.

Rachel is also the founder of Psychgeist®, a multimedia content production studio the science of games and pop culture. 

Rachel Kowert Books
Rachel Kowert PhD

Meet Rachel

I graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas in May 2005 with a B.A. in Psychology. As I always had an interest in psychotherapy, I began looking into various clinical graduate programs shortly after graduation and enrolled in the M.A. Counseling Psychology program at Santa Clara University in 2006. My time at SCU was exceptionally rewarding, both professionally and personally, as it provided me with first-hand experience as to how psychological research can be applied to real-world situations and scenarios. However, it was clear to me early on that I was more interested in pursuing a research-based, rather than clinical, career in psychology. 
 

I completed my PhD at the University of York in York, England. Under the supervision of Dr. Julian Oldmeadow, my work aligned across two branches of inquiry: the cultural stereotype of online gamers and the relationship between social (in)competence and online video game involvement. In 2015, my PhD thesis was published by Routledge as a research monograph entitled Video games and social competence.

Following my PhD, I completed a 2-year post doctoral position working with Prof. Dr. Thorsten Quandt at the University of Münster in Germany as an associate researcher for the large-scale, ERC-project “SOFOGA” (Social Foundations of Online Gaming). SOFOGA was a three-year project examining a range of game-related variables among a representative German sample and remains the largest EU-funded games research project to date. My work in this project focused on examining the social impact of online video game play.

Since 2019, I have served as the Research Director for Take This, a mental health non-profit organization that serves the gaming industry and gaming communities. During my time here, my work has primarily focused on providing context and support around issues of digital safety in games.

In 2020, I founded Psychgeist®, a multimedia content production studio for the science of games and pop culture. What started as a YouTube channel of the same name, Psychgeist®, has grown into a collection of content, including, a (mostly) monthly newsletter, the Most Recent Save podcast, and a pop-culture book series.

What Rachel's Doing Today

I am currently working on a two-year project funded by the Department of Homeland Security (in collaboration with with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and Logically AI) examining the landscape of extremist radicalization and recruitment within digital gaming spaces. This project aims to establish a baseline of understanding for the unique characteristics of extremist activities within video game communities, build capacity within the gaming industry to prevent and counter violent extremism in these spaces, and create collaborative networks across public and private sectors.

I am also actively curating The Psychgiest of Pop Culture (ETC Press) book series that highlights iconic pop culture content from television, film, literature and video games. These books are written with the everyday reader in mind and are a little bit science, a little bit fandom, and a whole lot of love.

Rachel Kowert

Current Projects

Side Projects

In addition to my research work, I currently have several side projects. 

Pragmatic Princess

Pragmatic Princess is a series of 26 short-stories about everyday girls, doing everyday things, with their everyday abilities. I successfully kickstarted this project in 2019 and raised nearly $30,000 in 30 days.

Over the last few decades, interest in pop psychology has grown faster than most of our Netflix backlogs. This new series will highlight iconic pop culture content from television, film, literature, and video games through an examination of the psychological mechanisms that endear us to these stories for a lifetime. This series will debut in 2023 from ETC Press.