Can Gaming Save the World?

I just finished watching a TED Talk by Jane McGonigal about how games can help us save the world which was fascinating.  At first you are probably like me and you instantly discredited her, but her ideas are brilliant.  Below are my notes and definitely watch the video if interested because I likely wasn’t able to effectively capture it all.

  • Wants to make it as easy to save the world in real life as it is to save the world in online games.
  • The world invests 3 billion hours weekly playing online games which she feels is not enough.
  • She thinks the world needs to invest 21 billion hours a week to solve hunger, obesity, climate change and more.
  • Phillip Toledano wanted to capture the emotion of gaming in a series of pictures he took of people playing games.  Below is an example of one of the pictures.
  • In the pictures you can see urgency, fear, concentration and that the eyebrows up shows optimism and something called an “epic win” an outcome that is so extraordinarily positive you had know it was possible until you achieved it. You are shocked to discover what you are truly capable of. This is the face we need to see on millions of problem solvers in this century.
  • Too often in real life what we see is the “I’m not good at life” face.  She took this picture in Berkeley, CA when doing her PhD work.  She said most people feel we are not as good at reality as we are in games.
  • When we are in game worlds we are often the best version of ourselves.
  • In real life when we face obstacles we become overwhelmed but in games we rarely feel that emotion.
  • She looked at World of Warcraft
    • Whenever you show up there are lots and lots of characters who are willing to trust you with a world saving mission which is perfectly matched with your level in the game. It is in the verge of what you are capable of.
    • There is usually something important waiting to be done.
    • Other people waiting to work with you to solve a problem and in real life that is rare to have so many people willing to collaborate so willingly.
    • In games we get constant feedback in games with how well we are working at something.
    • People so far have spent 5.93 million years playing World of Warcraft.
    • In the average country with a strong gaming culture, an average gamer will have spent 10,000 hours gaming by age 21. 10,080 hours is the exact amount of time children spend from fifth grade to high school if you have perfect attendance. We have an entire parallel world of learning.
    • What exactly are gamers getting good at?
      • Urgent optimism
        • Extreme self motivation. Desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success. Gamers believe success is possible and everything is worth trying.
      • Social fabric
        • We like people better after we have played a game with them, even if they have beat us badly.
        • Playing games together actually builds up stronger bonds.
      • Blissful productivity
        • We know when we are playing a game we are happier working hard as long as what they are doing is meaningful.
        • Gamers are willing to work hard if they are given the right work.
      • Epic meaning
        • People like getting attached to missions.
        • Largest wiki is Wikipedia.
        • The second largest wiki is that of World of Warcraft.
  • We have 500 million global gamers playing at least one hour of games a month and in the next decade we will have a billion gamers.
  • Games are super-empowered and hopeful individuals. The problem is they feel this way for virtual worlds but not in the real world.
  • We need to start making the real world more like the game world.
  • 2500 years ago people played with sheep’s knuckles which were the first game equipment (shown below).
  • The Greek philosopher Herodotus is said to be the inventor of games in the world. He said games were invented in the kingdom of Lidya in a time of famine. The King of Lidya had an extreme famine so the king invented a dice game where one day people played the game and the next people ate. People would be so immersed in playing the game they would ignore the fact they were not eating. They were able to pass 18 years through the famine by playing games one day and eating the next.
  • She feels we are using games to escape real world suffering.
  • The King of Lidya after 18 years the famine wasn’t getting better so they decided to play one final dice game. They divided the entire kingdom in half and the winners of the game would go on an epic adventure they would leave Lidya and go out and find a new place to live.
  • We have been playing Warcraft since 1994 which is 16 years ago. Lidians had been playing dice games for 18 years and we have been playing for 16 so she feels we are ready to start playing our mission in real life.
  • She created a world without oil game
    • Try to survive without oil. Gives you real time news feeds and data and you have to figure out how you would live your life if it were true.
  • Global extinction awareness system
    • Game where they tell you humans only have 23 years left to live before extinction.
  • So what happens next?
    • Play games that matter and try to make a future we previously never thought possible.