How online gaming can change the world

Justin Olivetti
J. Olivetti|03.18.10

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How online gaming can change the world
Jane McGonigal (a 10-year game designer of projects such as the I Love Bees ARG for Halo 2) has a self-professed "crazy idea" -- that gamers have the potential to change the world for the better by doing what they're already doing. At her speech, people chuckle when she first says this, but twenty minutes later they're giving her a standing ovation.

She begins by stating the obvious: we are a gaming culture that flees the "broken" world to a virtual one that offers a better and more rewarding collaborative environment. "When we're in game worlds I believe that many of us become the best versions of ourselves," she said. "The most likely to help at a moment's notice, most likely to stick with a problem as long as it takes, to get up after failure and try again."

By using World of Warcraft as a primary example, Jane notes that gamers have spent over 5.93 million years playing the title for its sense of achievement, ease of collaboration, inspiring story and positive feedback. Through MMOs and single-player titles, she posits that gamers are becoming "virtuosos" at four things: urgent optimism (everything is always worth trying right now), social fabric (we like people better after playing a game with them), blissful productivity (we're happier working hard than relaxing) and epic meaning (we're attached to awe-inspiring mission and stories).

Her focus as a game designer is to bring video games to the real world, and in so doing, have gamers interact with the real world much like a video game to tackle its problems. She cited a few games she's created, such as World Without Oil, that have done exactly this. Jane hopes that by doing this, we will be as excited for an "epic win" when we solve problems like hunger, poverty, global conflict and obesity.

Watch the video below for her full speech and see what you think of this "crazy idea." Thanks to Darren from Common Sense Gamer for finding this.

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