Jane McGonigal Explains Why We Should Be Grateful For Games

Jane McGonigal Explains Why We Should Be Grateful For Games


“From zero to peak experience in thirty seconds flat – no wonder video games caught on. Never before in human history could this kind of optimal, emotional activation be accessed so cheaply, so reliably, so quickly.” This passage is taken from Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken: Why Games Make us Better and How they Can Change the World. For those who have not yet heard of this book, Jane McGonigal is an award-winning game designer. Her vision is to incorporate positive psychology to video games so that gamers can channel skills they have acquired through countless hours of gaming to solve real world problems. From her groundbreaking work, she has helped put together multiple interdisciplinary pieces to properly explain why we should celebrate the creation and playing of video games. Her blog, Show Me the Science, provides research on various ways games are beneficial; there is even an article on how violent games help with cooperation skills.

Games are addicting, reality is not. From subjective accounts, many find it easier to explain how games are addicting as opposed to how work is addicting. The reason for this is because games stem from play—human’s natural process for learning. Therefore, games fuel core emotional needs. They:

  1. Give human actions deeper meaning—the desire to be part of something bigger than the self. It is important to note that the “bigger thing” may be fictional as well. Performing actions for a higher cause than “the self” causes humans to feel positive emotions associated with altruism.
  2. Tease humans with a fair shot at success—the hashtag quote of the digital native generation is “#winning”. Humans love to seek out epic wins, and games help them develop a sense of urgent optimism.
  3. Provide instant feedback in the form of visible progress bars—it is no secret that autonomy and instantaneous feedback is key for growth. These cleverly designed game mechanics in place make games more “engaging” than watching TV. It is also a well-known fact that the hippocampus and thalamus (key areas in the brain for memory and learning) are highly active when participating in an action rather than just watching.
  4. Facilitate social connections—with the rise of mobile games and the demand for more multiplayer experiences, games help create social fabrics among people all over the world. Jane calls this unique skill that gamers have “collaboration radar”, the ability to form trust/guilds by only knowing people from their video game avatar.

On top of fueling core emotional needs, Jane explains the top 10 positive emotions gamers feel from playing their favorite video games:

  1. Creativity
  2. Contentment
  3. Awe & Wonder
  4. Excitement
  5. Curiosity
  6. Pride
  7. Surprise
  8. Love
  9. Relief
  10. Joy

It is important to note that creativity isn’t even labeled as an “emotion”, but gamers still felt the need to express it as the greatest thing experienced while playing their favorite games. Creativity is unique to an individual, and everyone loves when their personal, creative solution was a right solution to an obstacle. As a gamer myself, I feel that the 9 other emotions are strongly amplified the more creative a game can make someone feel.

Over the years, Jane has been uncovering the many different “superpowers” that gamers have acquired through years of playing. All of these emotional needs and positive emotions boil down to one great superpower—gamers are super-empowered, hopeful individuals. These are people who believe that they are individually capable of changing the world. It is not crazy to say that her insight from video games isn’t too far off from what is currently happening in Human-based computation research. Human based computation is solving problems that would not be possible to do by the computer alone, outsourcing some of the steps to humans. Duolingo is a gamified language learning software platform that allows people to learn a language while translating the web. By using the power of software, gamification, and human intelligence, applications are being created to help all of humanity. Video games, humans, and technology=Win, Win, Win!

Fun Facts:

  1. For a list of the successful world-changing games Jane has created, look here.
  2. 97% of teens play video games, 92% of 2 yr olds! 10k hours by the time they are 21.
  3. Video gamers have nearly a 30% higher creativity competency than their peers.
  4. Scientists have found that ADHD symptoms disappear when a student is playing their favorite games.
  5. From the book Positivity, if people experience positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio with negative ones, they naturally become more comfortable with unpredictability and adversity. In turn, it helps them effortlessly achieve what they once could only imagine. Playing games are a great way to maintain a 3-1 ratio in your daily life.

via Games to Change the World—at Swarthmore, Nov. 14th, 2012. Image credit to Joi


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