Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better

Loose notes from SXSW 2011 session: Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better

Jane McGonigal
Creative Dir
Social Chocolate

One of my favorite sessions of the week – McGonigal turns everything you thought you knew about the healthiness and benefits / downsides of video games on its head. By the end of the hour, we walked away convinced that basing our educational system more on the models of video games could be a great move for our children.

The video shown here is from McGonigal’s TED Talk, which was similar but not identical to her SXSW talk.

Book: Reality is Broken

We spend 3 billion hours per week playing video games.

Collective conscience and will of our profession is being tested as never before. Now is time for us to have courage for legendary work.

Games are not just a waste of time – they can be the single most productive thing we can do with our time. We need to challenge the idea of productivity.

Jane survived a concussion, had horrible vertigo and nausea.

At the end of a normal, non-gaming day, what have you produced? What have you given back to the world? For most of us, not much. So are games much different? More importantly, how can be of service to some larger goal or project? An accomplishment is something more than just getting something done.

Does 10,000 hours of playing computer and videogames have side effects?

Media prefers to report on crazy parents who don’t feed their kids because they’re playing Farmville rather than on the real research. Real research says there is NO correlation between video games and predisposition toward violence. Playing games like Plants vs. Zombies are three times more likely to help someone else (with homework, volunteer work, chores, etc.)

Research says: Games aren’t changing how violent we are, but they are making us more cooperative in the real world.

Players of Guitar Hero, Rock Band etc. are 73% more likely to pick up a real instrument.

Stanford: Playing games with an attractive avatar actually boosts self confidence in the real world. They boost self esteem.

Stanford: Playing games with an attractive avatar actually boosts self confidence, self esteem in the real world.

Gamers have FAR fewer reports of nightmares, and a much higher incidence of lucid dreaming.

The science doesn’t work if you you play games more than 28 hours a week, if you’re an asshole to other players, or you’re playing with a bunch of assholes.

Why doesn’t violence translate to real life when cooperation does?

The opposite of play isn’t work – it’s depression.

Games are unncessary obstacles we volunteer to tackle.

When we play a game we’re trying to build up positive emotions with other people.

Eustress = Euphoric or positive Stress – the kind of stress that creates well-being. Games bring us eustress.

Jane showing photos of people in a state of eustress – people are turned on, engaged, spark in the eyes. Not zombies.

In a state of eustress we’re more likely to set ambitious goals for ourselves, become more optimistic, and are drawn to others.

Research: Emotions activated by games: Joy, relief, love, surprise, pride, curiosity, excitement, awe & wonder, contentment, creativity.

Being happy makes us successful: Better grades, more popularity, social support, higher achievements, in personal goals, more raises and promotions, more satisfying marriages.

Every time you feel an emotion, it spreads on average to 6 other people.

Gameful design aims to be life-changing, reality-changing, game-changing, world-changing.

Quest to Learn: School for digital kids. Changing entire curriculum to be more like a game. Kids can take a test over and over until they get the peformance they wanted – just like in a game. We learn more by taking a test than we do by studying.

Foldit: Game teaches you to fold proteins to find cure for cancer and other diseases. 50,000 gamers now listed as co-authors of a paper in the journal Nature.

Evoke: Game with the World Bank Institute – to help young people create their own enterprises. Solve: Famine in Tokyo, disease somewhere else. Gamers undertake challenges, then go on to do same in the real world.

Over the next decade, we will start thinking of games as Returnist, not just Escapist.

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