Jane McGonigal on how games can change the world
Paraphrase of TED Talk
The following is a paraphrase of Jane’s TED talk. Many of the comments refer to slides shown in the talk.
We have urgent problems to solve in the world. Today, we spend 3 billion hours a week on game play. Problems like climate change can be solved with games. Games are essential to survival because of the emotion of gaming.
Classic gaming emotion
Classic gaming emotion is urgency, fear, intense concentration, deep focus on tackling a problem. Optimism, surprise – here is a gamer on the verge of an “epic win”.
An “Epic Win” is an outcome that is so extraordinarily positive you had no idea it was possible until you achieved it. And when you get there you are shocked to discover what you’re truly capable of. This is the face we need to see on millions of problem solvers as we tackle global problems.
Unfortunately, what we see is the “I’m not good at life” face. Most people feel we’re not as good in reality as we are in games. In games, people are motivated to do something that matters, inspired to collaborate and cooperate. They are mostly likely to get up after failure and try again.
In real life, we feel overcome, overwhelmed, anxious, cynical. These emotions don’t exist in games. What is it about games that makes it impossible to feel we can’t achieve everything? World of Warcraft creates an deal collaborative, problem solving environment. Here you have characters that are willing to trust you with a world saving mission right away – with a challenge that you are on the verge of being capable of doing – matching your skills. Epic story, inspiring story. All this positive feedback. We don’t get that constant feedback in real life.
The problem with collaborative game environments is that they’re better than reality. People have collectively spent 5.93 million years solving the virtual problems of Aezeroth. 5.93 million years ago – our earliest primate ancestors stood up. [How does this compare with time spent trying to solve energy problems?]
Games change what we are capable of: we’re evolving to be a more collaborative, cooperative species. In the US, the average kid has spent 10,000 hours online by the age of 21. 10K is an interesting number. For kids in the US, 10k + 80 hours is the same as the time spent in 5th grade to graduation if you have perfect attendance. There is also a 10K hours theory of success. If you spend 10K hours of study in anything, you’ll be virtuosos at that thing. So kids are becoming virtuoso gamers.
In that case, what is it that gamers are getting good at? We have a human resource on our hands. 500 million people today are good at it, billions more are coming online. One billion more gamers in the next decade, due to low energy consoles + wireless phones.
What do games make people good at?
- Urgent optimism. Extreme self motivation. Desire to act immediately to tackle obstacle with a belief that we have a reasonable hope of success. Always worth trying, and trying now.
- Weaving a tight social fabric: We like people better after we’ve played a game with them, even if they’ve beaten us badly : ) play by same rules, value same goals, play the game ‘til it’s over. Stronger social relationships. Bonds, trust, cooperation.
- Blissful productivity. We’re happier working hard than when relaxing or hanging out. Hard, meaningful work. Gamers are willing to work hard all the time, if given the right work.
- Epic meaning. Gamers love to be attached to awe inspiring missions and global scale stories. 2nd biggest wiki in the world is world of warcraft wiki. More info about world of warcraft than any other topic in the world.
These things add up to one thing: Gamers are super empowered, hopeful individuals. They feel they are individually capable of changing…virtual worlds. But how about the real world? (Here Jane quotes Edward Castronova, about online worlds and the Mass Exodus to virtual worlds.)
The key, per Jane is:
Instead of providing gamers with better and more immersive alternatives to reality, I want all of us to be become responsible for providing the world with a better and more immersive reality.
In other words, we have to start making the real world more like games. Imagine epic wins, give people the means to achieve the epic wins. Some examples already in play:
- “World without oil”, an online game in which you try to survive an oil shortage. Live your real life as if you’re out of oil. Real time news videos, data feeds, how things are being affected, rioting, etc. How to live your real life if this was true, blog about it, post videos. A transformative experience. Nobody wants to change how they live because it’s good for the world, or because we’re supposed to. But if you immerse them in an epic adventure – this is an amazing story for you to …challenge yourself to see how you would survive.
- Superstruct: A computer has told you we have 20 years to extinction. So you come on and form a dream team – not just 5 people, everyone’s on the dream team.
- Evoke: World bank institute, if you complete the game you will be certified as a social innovator.
- Fate of the World: Note, we heard about this one from Jamesr on the forums.