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GDC08: Six things to take from Game Developers Rant: Happiness

Ross Miller
02.23.08
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3. "Games are the ultimate happiness engine"

Jane McGonigal was up next. She's not mad at game designers; her rant is about reality. And it's broken. "We are the people who are supposed to fix it," she said.

"When I'm in games I have all the info and feedback I need, I have superhero skills ... it's just better than real life." McGonigal explains she has been spending the last year doing research on happiness, deeming it not a warm puppy. Instead, McGonigal lays out a four-point happiness list:
  1. Satisfying work to do
  2. The experience of being good at something
  3. Time spent with people we like
  4. The chance to be a part of something bigger
"What the hell does any of this better but games? Nothing," she said. "Games are the ultimate happiness engine, and you [the game industry] are in the happiness business." McGonigal noted that it took them until 1930 that soap can be used to kill germs. For depression and isolation, perhaps games can be the same fix. She quotes someone we didn't catch: "Why should we care about games? Because our life is crap."

McGonigal lists five things that game designers could fix today:
  1. Running
  2. Being on a plane
  3. Playing fetch
  4. Commuting
  5. Annoying people
She then hypothesized about how the Nike + iPod shoes can keep track of how far you've run and how that technology could somehow be used alongside a social MMO, noting that gamers would be happy and healthy. Explaining her belief the game designers are the smartest people in the world (with Will Wright on her side, we can't blame her), she asks "Can we fix it? Hell yes. Will we fix it? I have no fucking idea."

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