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(Picture of Josh at a Renaissance Faire holding a mandolin and juggling)

About Me

I'm a PhD student studying game-user interaction and transformational games at Northeastern University, mentored by Seth Cooper and Magy Seif El-Nasr. My research focuses on synthesizing game design principles with the psychology of learning and motivation to create seamless and engaging user experiences in non-game contexts. I'm interested in creating playful, flow-state experiences for educational contexts. My primary specialization is in complex learning in games, with specific focus on higher educational games and transformational games which train soft skills, such as language, music, and art. Even when I'm not explicitly doing research, I'm getting involved with games in one way or another.

Education: BA, Computer Science and Neuroscience, Colgate University; MS, Computer Science, Northeastern University
Hometown: Hamilton, New Jersey
Field of Study: Game user research, transformational games
PhD Advisors: Magy Seif El-Nasr and Seth Cooper
Hobbies: Juggling, learning mandolin and ukelele, playing games of all kinds
Favorite game genre: Lifestyle games
Games I'm playing currently: Slay the Spire, Final Fantasy XIV
Favorite games (in no particular order): Ocarina of Time, Overwatch, Hanabi, Don't Starve Together, Dominion...
Check out the full(ish) list of games I've played enough to have brief design thoughts on.


What have you been researching lately?
My research so far has focused on improving the tutorial of Foldit, the protein-folding puzzle game. By grounding the design in Self-Determination Theory and Cognitive Load Theory, our development team hopes to craft a more intuitive experience for new players.

What are your research interests?
I am interested in game-user interaction, games with a purpose, game design, and the psychology of learning and motivation. Together, these interests become the discovery of playful elements of non-game contexts. I also focus on minimizing cognitive load while maximizing engagement and retention by synthesizing grounded theories and industry practices and principles.

What's one problem you'd like to solve with your research?
Using games as a tool for formal and informal learning is currently an unsolved problem. How do learning and play relate? What is the core experience of discovering new things, and can we build a game or interface around that to enable players to explore new topics in an enjoyable and casual way? This work could unlock new questions into how we understand education, intrinsic motivation, play-ability, and playfulness.

What aspect of what you do is most interesting?
Games are one of the newest forms of art, and one of the only forms that's interactive. They are so nascent that no one has realized their full potential as a set of tools which enable problem-solving and human expression from a unique perspective. This field is the research of playful problem-solving, and it's so enjoyable to be a part of it.

What are your research goals going forward?
I'm currently looking toward the design of transformational games: making games which are both transformational in their own right and help advance the theory of designing good transformational games.