TED Conversations

Jane McGonigal

Game Designer + Inventor, Institute for the Future


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We spend 3 billion hours a week as a planet playing videogames. Is it worth it? How could it be MORE worth it?

Currently there are more than half a billion people worldwide playing computer and videogames at least an hour a day -- and 183 million in the U.S. alone. The younger you are, the more likely you are to be a gamer -- 99% of boys under 18 and 94% of girls under 18 report playing videogames regularly. The average young person racks up 10,000 hours of gaming by the age of 21 -- or 24 hours less than they spend in a classroom for all of middle and high school if they have perfect attendance. It's a remarkable amount of time we're investing in games. 5 million gamers in the U.S., in fact, are spending more than 40 hours a week playing games -- the equivalent of a full time job!

What accounts for the lure of games – and are we getting as much from our games as we’re giving them?

I explore these questions in my new book Reality is Broken – and I believe that, for most gamers, playing games is, surprisingly not a waste of time -- but rather quite productive. Gameplay may not contribute to the Gross Domestic Product… but scientific research shows that gameplay does contribute to our quality of life, by producing positive emotions (such as optimism, curiosity and determination) and stronger social relationships (when we play with real-life friends and family – especially if the game is co-operative). And for gamers who prefer tough, challenging games, they can build up our problem-solving resilience -- so we learn faster from our mistakes, and become resilient in the face of failure.

However... not all games power-up our real lives. Some games, at the end of the day, make us feel stupid for having wasted so much time on them.

So: How do we know when we're playing a good game -- and when would we be better off doing something "real"?

GAMERS: What's one thing you wish non-gamers would understand about your favorite games, and what you get out of playing them?

NON-GAMERS: What's one thing you wish a gamer would explain about games today, and why they play?

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    Feb 15 2011: I am a gamer and I would like to see a couple things. Firstly, I wish there was a greater understanding among the non-gamer population of the breadth of the diversity among games. Every art form is going to have its trashy novels and its masterpiece paintings. Sometimes you want to play a mindless shooter, and sometimes you want a long and complex fantasy epic. It is possible that there is a lopsided ratio between the trash and the masterpieces in games, or just a more overt difference, that many non-gamers tend to only look at a small set of games and condemn them.

    A second thing I would love to see, and hope to one day study myself, is an examination of the educational quality of modern games. I don't mean dressing education up as a game, though there is merit in that as well, but examining what kids learn from the games they already play. Does a raider in World of Warcraft learn anything while griding yet another dungeon? Are players in strong virtual economies, like the one in EVE:Online, better prepared to work in the business world? Can the constantly change rates in resource management heavy games like Supreme Commander help in teaching the kind of analytical skills involved in complex engineering tasks? Is it possible that a game could approximate, or even exceed, the educational benefit of a more traditional form? I am inclined to say yes, and would love to be able to examine if I am correct or not.
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      Feb 15 2011: Could not ask better questions myself.
      - from a parent of a highly engaged socially, and curiously successful gamer.
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      Feb 15 2011: Good points. I can see one very obvious benefit for kids playing games, and that is, learning the conceptual strategies of resource management and delayed gratification from playing games where leveling up is a major component. E.g. you have to work hard with less interesting enemies/areas to bring your level up to a point that makes you able to do more interesting things (otherwise you'll just get wiped out when you enter higher-level areas), when you level up you have to distribute skill points, which makes you think about what areas to concentrate on and invest in. There's usually an economy where you look for gold/gil/dough and then save up for better equipment. Spells and attacks use up resources, etc. These ideas may build a conceptual structure that may later help the kid in thinking about saving and managing their financial resources (and things conceptualized as substances, like time or energy).
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      Feb 15 2011: I agree with Erik about the not-so-obvious benefits of gaming and I feel that there is much gaming can offer that non-gamers might overlook or at times, gamers ourselves tend to overlook because it is learning in a new form something that we wouldn’t consider learning by our ‘Enlightenment’ period definition, whether that is puzzle solving, money/skill investment strategies, people/resource management, etc.

      That being said, I wish to provide a caveat emptor, in regards to the proliferation of gaming due to Apple/Google devices and their ecosystems. I wish that both gamers and non-gamers understand the risk of allowing such ‘marketplace’ devices that are blurring the lines of what they are and what they say they are. We don’t consider the Xbox/PS3 ‘media consoles that do everything’ (no matter what their marketers said), we still have our personal computers that are connected to the full open web. However these closed eco systems are slowly becoming the norm (maybe not among all of us, but certainly our future generations). Sure, Facebook and iPhone/iPad apps have allowed for a wave of new games (quality is debatable), but the idea that these games are locked within these ecosystems and people becoming tied to such ecosystems further limits our collective openness as a society. By beginning to accept these ecosystems as the future of the web/games we are turning our backs on the open ‘web’ (remember Net Neutrality?). Don’t get me wrong; these ecosystems are great at also sharing and spreading ideas, but only to a certain extent, “only eco-system approved ideas are worth spreading”. We as gamers and non-gamers need to understand there are clear boundaries between gaming consoles/’electronic marketplace devices’ (i.e. iPad) and our open PC/Macs. We should not lead our future generations on a path that will make them question the relevance of open systems or the open ‘web’ - such isolated closed systems will not allow us to share our ideas with others...
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    Feb 19 2011: Jane! Hi! I am not a gamer. I am an online idea generator. When I listened to your talk live last year, I knew that I should translate your talk into Hungarian and I am glad I did that (http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/hun/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world.html). :-) Thank you for the inspiration! I had this idea: Why not create a game that makes people in the developed world responsible for the education of people in the less developed parts of the world. There is now so much content out there for online education for free... I was thinking: Ivy League development, education, etc... students should be inspired by online games ... you know, somehow combining education, mentoring, research and gaming... Get your degree as an online gamer by teaching people skills, showing them the world, interacting with them online and seeing results as we play. Learn from each other. Get your university credits with meaningful online games. I even wrote e-mails about that to the TED management, because TED talks would be perfect for this new way of "online global community graduation" with "gamer organized free educational content" from the web. I imagined getting an experimental PhD in such a way online (on top of my Columbia University MA) from my home in Budapest, Hungary while pulling someone else (living in a less fortunate environment) toward a BA or an MA degree. The game could have an academically meaningful impact beyond the epic win of teaching people skills, languages or science... I am sure many PhD students would be happier with this, instead of being the RA and TA slaves of tenured professors in the US... I could work with a post-doc who is in the US... so that person in the US, me in Hungary, and the person in the Third World: we would get to know each other's needs and culture too and that with minimal carbon footprint. That could promote global power balance and understanding. This in my opinion would be a meaningful game project. :-) Best, Regina Saphier
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    Feb 15 2011: As a gamer, I totally don't care whether non-gamers, or anyone else appreciates the games I like. Why should I bother them with my boring opinions? The right games will find the right people when the time is right.
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      Feb 15 2011: When the student is ready the game will appear?
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      Feb 16 2011: You probably have friends and family and colleagues who appreciate and support your gameplay and work in games. :) Not everyone is so lucky! A lot of gamers do struggle to help friends, family or colleagues understand what they're getting out of gaming... and face a lot of pressure to spend less time gaming. So I think it's a fair question -- is there a way to really understand what we get from games and to talk about it with non-gamers? I do agree, however, with the idea that "when the student is ready the game will appear." :) I'd love to hear stories about the games that appeared at the right time for the right person, and how that game changed their ideas about what games can do and be. Stories please! :)
      • Feb 16 2011: I am a gamer and I am surrounded by non-gamers. I work in academia and find that games have a non-academic vibe to them that the majority of faculty migrate towards. As an instructor who teaches game development, i've had other instructors look over my lesson plans and comment that we are "only playing games". I feel that the first major challenge gamers have is being taken seriously. The comical view of the gamer living in the parents basement is damaging to the serious influence games (and gamers) have. I regularly game with Dr's and lawyers, but they seem like closet gamers. Their circle of friends don't game and they seek other social circles who accept gaming as a real activity.
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    Feb 14 2011: As a GAMER: There are so many things I would like to (and try to) get across to people who consider themselves "non-gamers," but if I had to pick one it's that there can be such a variety of kinds of experiences we get through the medium of video games, we can't possibly lump them all together when we talk about games. It's like trying to discuss films in terms of "are movies good for you? are movies a waste of time?" Some movies are, some movies aren't. I watch some types of films, but few of us watch all types of films.

    As there are many different types of games (and the number of genres expands every year), there are many types of people playing games, and many types of experiences. I think moving forward, the conversation we have about video games should be more nuanced than talking about the entire medium as a whole.
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      Feb 16 2011: That's such a great point. I wonder what it will take to get there. Do we need a more nuanced vocabulary that everyone understands -- the way we can talk about "documentaries" or "experimental shorts" or "animated" or "romantic comedies"...? Or is that not a fine enough grain... or maybe the wrong grain? Do we need to to talk about games that "make you feel" or "make you think" or "make you move" or "make you act", for example, which is closer to how we talk about and evaluate other media. Hmmmm... It would certainly be a good way to think about experimental game design!
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        Feb 16 2011: Don't we already have categorization? Like "genres"? Yeah, I agree those don't make much sence to non-gamers, but then again, I didn't understood what a "thriller" movie stood for until I actually watched one.

        I guess separate categorizations with criterias like these are also possible... "make you move" seems to be more of a controller issue than a game issue though. Dancing games don't make you dance unless you're using Kinect or a Wii controller. Similar things could be said for most other categorizations you mentioned.

        Here's an idea for some categorization that doesn't need (much?) explaining even to non-gamers: Fun/Joy games, puzzle board and card games, management games, philosophical games, creativity nurturing games, collaboration games, anti-example games (that one needs more explanation; I'm talking about all games that portray "bad" stuff, but in the end, if you're in your right mind, you'll see that's not stuff that should go into the real world as portrayed; examples include NFS:HP and GTA4)... I think I might be missing something, but I'm just thinking of every game I can think of and try to categorize it.
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      Feb 17 2011: Genres are there, obviously, but a grand list going from A-Z or a link to Wikipedia is just really not that convincing when trying to communicate the diversity of something as dynamic, vibrant and motley as video games.

      I very much agree with you, Kellee, that we're far beyond the point, where it would make sense to talk about games as some well defined, internally consistent and homogeneous group. Games are not "just games".

      Oftentimes discussions on games are marred by exactly this preconception, that games are somehow "just games", all equal, rendering it valid to play one game, dislike it and conclude to dislike games in general.

      Hey, the frequently uttered claim that "I'm just not into games" is bordering on being nonsensical. One such claim would - if taken to the extreme - require you to know all the games in the world, which is the case for none of us.

      On the contrary, the claim is often made by people who know next to nothing about games, but have decided nevertheless (consciously or unconsciously) that games are simply not their cup of tea. Most of these decisions are thus based on the broader cultural framing of games; ideas that games are for kids only, that they're stupid, shallow entertainment, that they're always about killing everything in sight, that they may even be harmful - in short, that they're a waste of time (at best).

      So yes, Jane, I would absolutely argue, that we need a richer, more nuanced and diverse vocabulary to mirror the diversity and dynamics of games. Games are an inherent, invaluable and vital part of culture, and as such, they deserve more than shallow rhetoric, denouncing their value. Many of you are doing a great job in promoting a more reflective way of talking about games, both by developing marvelous games and delivering stunning talks. We need to break out of these enclosed circles, though, and address these issues elsewhere, not least in education.
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    Feb 19 2011: I have "banned" videogames from my home : my daughter gets to play them when she goes to my parents' house. My daughter is now 16, and besides being obsessed with Facebook, she loves to read, play the piano and guitar and ... draw ! Until she was 12 she played with educational CD-Roms on the computer.

    My parents are obsessed with Guitar Hero. They play it every weekend for a couple of hours, and then they go shopping and watch American Idol. They don't read The Nation and don't watch TED Talks.

    I think you can guess where I stand concerning video games.
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      Feb 19 2011: Interesting comment, thank you.
      I wonder if it would be possible to present TED or some other reading/reasoning/commenting activity as a sort of a "game". As you know your parents well, maybe you can devise a way to reframe their perception, even if admittedly it's quite easier with kids than with grown adults.
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        Feb 20 2011: Gianluca, I have tried re-framing their perception for years and will keep trying.
        I LOVE the idea of an interactive TED game !
        20 questions ?
        Jeopardy-like ?
        One where you film yourself and play with others via a Network to give "the TED Talk of your life"
        Now THAT I'd play !
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          Feb 20 2011: Great idea! What about encouraging youngsters to give TED-like talks online, in a sandbox TED like presentation at school or at home with a webcam?
          The player take a topic of his/her interest, and speaks for 10 minutes about it. Then the video is brought online and a voting process by TED watchers goes on for a few months.
          The vote is then weighted by the time the video was actually displayed,so that, even if you were the one that submitted the last video, you still can win.
          The prize? You get to talk to TED.
          What do you think about it? And Jane, wouldn't that be an interesting research topic for a new book?
        • Feb 24 2011: Caroline, that game exists, check out my response to Gianluca...
      • Feb 24 2011: Gianluca, such a game exists, and I'm involved in it. global innovation game on facebook...you can upload a video of yourself backing your solution to our global challenges. check it out, a natural hangout for the TED set.
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      Feb 20 2011: Hi Caroline... It sounds like your problem is not with "video games" as a whole, but rather with the lack of relative worth that many games appear to have. There's a lot of low-value games out there, just like there's a lot of junk TV but also some brilliant programming.

      I would bet that there are many games available today that you'd be fine with your daughter playing periodically, once you saw how worthwhile they were. There are many games that are very much like the TED game you propose. And then there are games that could build on your daughter's strengths and interests to develop other critical thinking skills. For example, have you seen Crayon Physics? It combines artistic expression and problem solving in a brilliant way.

      Regarding your comments about your parents and Guitar Hero... it's easy to be dismissive of games like Guitar Hero as inferior to learning a proper instrument. However I know many people, particularly those past the "easy learning" years like your parents, who always wanted to play an instrument but never got around to learning. They've tried to learn piano or guitar but found the learning curve to be too steep or simply didn't have the time to put in to practice. Games like Guitar Hero make playing music accessible to a wider group of people. This is great because not only do more people get to share in the joy that is music creation and collaboration, but they also gain a real appreciation for the skills that "real" guitarists and other musicians have developed.
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        Feb 20 2011: Thanks Wes. I will look up Crayon Physics !

        I don't dismiss the easy pleasure factor of Guitar Hero.
        What bothers me is that my parents spend at least an hour playing it, almost every day, whereas if they played the guitar for an hour every day, they'd actually be able to play (and they both did study music). I do understand the "easy-learning factor" but 8 to 12 hours a week playing Guitar Hero seems excessive to me but then I'm not a gamer. However ...

        What is the average amount of time americans spend playing video games a year?
        According to Nielsen, users average 135 minutes, or 2 hours and fifteen minutes/day (x 365 days = 49275 minutes/year).
        • Feb 22 2011: I have both played guitar and Guitar Hero and have read many anecdotes of guitarists who love Guitar Hero. I don't know anything about your parents, but here are some things that may make it a bit easier to understand why they don't just play guitar.

          - Practicing guitar is tough and takes a while to learn new songs. In Guitar Hero you can get through a song pretty quickly on the easy level and make it more interesting with higher difficulty. That means that you keep experiencing new songs, which is cool. After practicing one song for a couple hours on end it's nice to fire up the game and interact with a whole set of songs.

          - Guitar Hero puts you into a band right away. Getting a group of people together to play songs that you like isn't easy. So many schedules to organize and a space needs to be secured. Then you need to move all that equipment.

          - Guitar Hero gets you the feeling of success faster. The game cheers you on and as silly a that sounds, it feels pretty good.

          - It's not all "easy pleasure." Some songs are quite difficult. Some are insanely difficult. There is definitely still challenge to be overcome.

          Of all the games out there, the rhythm games genre (Guitar Hero, Rock Band, DJ Hero, etc.) is one that I'd recommend. It's fun and gives you a new appreciation of music. Another way of thinking about is that it's not 8-12 hours of gaming (because it's NOT all the same), but 8-12 hours interacting with music.
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    Feb 15 2011: What a provocative debate...I used to be a video-gamer maxing out in World of Warcraft. I still thoroughly enjoy board games, particularly Go, and do use on-line venues to play. Through experience, I understand what others have said and your research finds, and agree that gaming can have a place in our lives.

    I am a holistic thinker, thus refuse to isolate things from the context of a larger whole. For gaming this means, while we may be experiencing positive emotions, strengthening social ties (typically dependent on the context of the game, yes?), and perhaps even learning some leadership skills, how is this all fitting within the larger context of our life? How dependent are we on the virtual environments to experience these pluses? Is this transferring to or enhancing our real world contexts? Are our off-line lives suffering because of interference of the gaming experience? How does gaming enhance our ability to enact qualities of human beauty in the world? Create conditions for peace and resilience?

    Another issue to consider is timeliness. Humans have now entered an unprecedented episode in the planet's history, largely because of our use of fossil fuels. How much energy is being used to power 3 billion hours of gaming a week? How is that energy being produced? Are there ways to use that energy towards more creative goals that contribute to the well-being for a larger portion of the human population?

    Again, I think games are a vital part of the human experience, but they are just one part of it.
    • Feb 15 2011: I think that if we didn't have gaming, people would watch TV or movies instead in order to escape reality. I think playing games is more intellectual than passively watching TV.

      Actually gaming can transfer or enhance our real world. Because gaming is such a huge business, companies are spending big money to improve graphics cards (helping designers, artists, medicine industries), improves rendering techniques (good for movies, architecture etc) and so on.

      I am not saying that there are cases where people neglect their families which is sad. But I also see many benefits.
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      Feb 15 2011: Adam, I liked what you had to say on this topic.

      Personally, I have had friends that played video games all through high school (WoW), and they developed their own language for speaking with each other. Two games I would really like to highlight are World of Warcraft and EVE Online.

      Both of these games are MMORPGs that require a massive amount of team coordination, teamwork, leadership development, and organizational management. To run a "guild" for instance requires that you have some understanding of business, leadership, time management, and many other skill sets. My best friend is a huge video gamer, and when his parents thought he wasn't going to go anywhere int he world he ended up becoming top of his class in the computer science department at his college. He is doing very well, and loves what he studies.

      Further, when I heard my little cousin was getting into computers, I urged his parents to help subsidize him with more technology, software, and books. Get him into computer science, game design and development, web design and development, and coding in general. I told them that he will learn incredibly useful skills and be heavily recruited not only by a college but also by a company out of school.

      Furthermore, the best video games are the ones that often tell a great story: a beginning, middle, and end. Complex plots, excellent character development, and imaginative.

      I say if my kid (if I had a kid) isn't reading, doing homework, or outside with his, let him play a video game because he is not only being enriched (if you get the right game, that is), but also is using his imagination, problem solving skills, and having fun while doing it. Further, if it is an MMORPG, he is making friends and socializing with people online--not only listening and being a part of some bigger organization, but maybe even leading.

      I recommend reading this great article: http://personalmba.com/everything-i-know-about-business-i-learned-from-world-of-warcraft/
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        Feb 16 2011: I acknowledge your anecdotes as real and applicable to the argument, but can we really say that these MMORPGs enrich the lives for all of those who play? I would imagine you could find anecdotes of MMORPGs ruining a person's life - what do we say about those stories? We really need a lot more data to describe the impact on a larger scale. And then, as Adam points out, we need to analyze these data as a piece of a larger whole.
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          Feb 19 2011: Excellent point Michael.
        • Feb 19 2011: There needs to be more outlets than simply the video game. Anything, if it is your only thing, stands a decent chance of ruining your life by taking you away from living. Video games can be an enhancer and a tool when you have the opportunity to apply the experiences gained from them to something else. I feel that is part of the OP's original premise, that reality is broken because it does not provide us those outlets. That may or may not be true.
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          Feb 20 2011: I believe games are most valuable when they fit within a valuable life context. For example, Dustin's friend and cousin are interested in computers. If you love computers and envision a career in computers, video games can be of great value. I learned the computer skills that ultimately led me to a computer science degree at MIT because of videogames. How's that? Well, getting games to run used to require a lot of hardware and software hacking back in the day... and many games came without instructions and were in other languages (particularly the ones obtained via BBS systems in Europe :) ) so figuring out the game was half the fun. Today's equivalent would be building a custom PC, downloading mods for games like World of Warcraft to optimize the play experience, etc.

          There are other valuable contexts in which games can fit. The Guitar Hero/Rock Band games can be a great way to get interested in music - and the most recent iterations are potentially a superior way to learn instruments like drums, keyboard, vocals and guitar - particularly for people who live in remote areas where there are no strong music programs. Similarly, the dancing games can be equally great for people who want to learn to dance - especially with the advent of the Kinect device.

          Of course, it's also possible (and one might even say predominant) to game without a valuable context. There are people who waste time with games the same way they waste time watching TV. It's fine using games or TV to relax, but then there's a point where it's no longer just relaxing and it becomes laziness.

          It's a choice. You can game valuably, or you can game to waste time. Games are not the issue - a person who chooses to waste time will do so with our without games, as Zdenek says. A person who wants to do valuable things in the world will do so, regardless of how many games they play, and maybe because of it.
        • Feb 20 2011: Wes, you bring up an interesting question for me. Is it or should it be society's role to change gaming in order to curtail "time wasting" and instead promote "valuable things in the world"?

          I find debating the value of video games interesting, but what is the endgame the all this discussion?
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    Feb 15 2011: As an EX-GAMER: I think people underestimate the catalyst for curiosity that gaming can be. My younger brother, for example, has always been an avid gamer. One day, while walking through Barnes and Noble, he spotted Friedrich Nietzsche's "Thus Spoke Zarathustra." He dashed over to the book and could not escape its compelling pages for days to come. Never before had he read any philosophy or even expressed any interest in it whatsoever. What caused this sudden change? Video games.

    In one of his favorite games, Tales of Symphonia, Zarathustra was the name of something important (either a character or place, I can't remember). Seeing that word in the bookstore made him wildly curious. The rest is history.

    Like comedy, gaming can serve intellectual hors d' oeuvres. Monty Python always sprinkled remnants of their Oxford- and Cambridge-educated minds in to their work. In the same way, there are many games out there that are in fact spreading intellectual curiosity. Game designers need to realize that incorporating such intellectual catalysts can only boost the quality of a game.
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      Feb 15 2011: Jason, I think you make an excellent point. The quality of the experience is so important. Some pedagogies such as Montessori, Waldorf, and Reggio Emilia emphasize the importance of the environment as the third teacher in learning (the other two being the student and the teacher). Thus, the gaming environment can positively or negatively contribute to human development. Games with mythic motifs as compared to inferior human potentials have much greater potential to positively affect the gamer.
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      Feb 15 2011: Love the concept of richly infusing games with characters derived from wise tomes and plots as wild as an Alfred Hitchcock thriller.
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      Feb 15 2011: I am now playing Persona 3 Portable, and I often think that this game will probably get a lot of people into Jung. Apart from the obvious gameplay elements (personas and shadows for two), because a large part of the game happens at school during class, you actually get a lot of little lectures and bits of knowledge about myth/magic, psychology and such, and are then quizzed on that. It's a small part of the game, but I bet that it will make a few people grab a Jung primer.
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    Mar 4 2011: .
    Perhaps the last thing we should do is to make games "useful".

    In our modern lives, too many of our activities are forced to be "useful" and utilitarian. Children (and indeed adults) have lost almost all room to play. Even play itself has been "pedagogized". Everything we do has to "teach us a lesson".

    Let's not make games "good", or "useful" or "purposeful". The entire goal of games is for them to be games - pure play, fantasy, uselessness.

    The social, psychological, economic and cultural value of the useless and of "wasting time" cannot be underestimated.

    I think we play too few useless games and don't spend enough time on them.
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      Mar 4 2011: I see the point you're making, but somehow I cannot fully agree with it.
      A game does not have to be purpose driven only, to this I agree, but I still feel that a good game should do more than offer you a pastime activity, it should challenge and inspire and even teach, just like a good book or a good movie should.
      I'm not saying noone should create "useless" games, but in my opinion they just aren't worth playing as other games are.
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    Feb 16 2011: I want to know why gamers don't see life as the ultimate game?

    As a side note, years ago, a friend of mine suggested a suite of games should be written where all the game play was based on physics near the speed of light or three dimensional representations of four dimensional space..

    He proposed that regardless of the game narrative, players would over time develop a intuitive understanding of physics beyond classical mechanics. Has a game like that been written?
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      Feb 17 2011: To address your second question there is a puzzle-game called Miegakure, currently in development that explores a 3D representation of a 4D space. marctenbosch.com/miegakure/ It may not be entirely theoretically sound but is interesting none-the-less.

      To attempt to answer your first question, I would say there are times when I will consider life the ultimate game, but there is also an awareness that what is happening in a game is an abstraction of reality. I am certainly more willing to do things in games that I would never consider in real life by the sheer fact that my life is not in danger in a digital world. I would speculate, however, that I use similar mechanisms when weighing decisions in the real world as I do in digital worlds but the consequences are more salient and severe.
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        Feb 18 2011: It's curious that Jane's work is to re-funnel Gamers attention back into the real world through the very mechanism they use to escape the world. It's almost like skinning reality.

        I think maybe games are a symptom of a larger problem. People seek to escape because they lack the opportunity to experience 'epic wins' in the real world. Things may change when we develop institutions that are focused on helping people thrive and apply their genius to collective wellbeing.
        • Feb 18 2011: In my 20 years of researching engagement from watching emotions on the faces of people while they play games, the opportunity to explore new worlds and experience accomplishment are just two of the four reasons why we play games. They also play to change the way they think feel and behave and to socialize with their friends.

          What I found researching best selling games from Tetris to Call of Duty is that first the hook is a novel experience. Games offer a simplified world to explore where they experience curiosity, wonder, and surprise. I call this Easy Fun. Next, while players are exploring the new physics of this world whether it's an abandoned warehouse or a screen full of gems they encounter a goal with some constraints. Players experience frustration as they attempt to overcome obstacles. If they win at the point they are about ready to quit, players experience fiero (Italian for triumph over adversity). This is the feeling of the epic win. I call this opportunity for challenge and mastery Hard Fun because it requires a lot of effort. Next, to make the win feel even more epic many players cooperate and compete with their friends for amusement, naches, schadenfreude, and ameiro (my word for the emotion from social bonding). Games offer the excuse to hang out with friends or what I call People Fun. Finally to make the win mean something, games amplify feedback to make the win change how they think feel or behave. I call this Serious Fun where gamers play Dance Dance Revolution to lose weight, Brain Age to get smarter, or Google Image labeler to help label every image on the Internet.

          Pardon the plug, but you can download free white papers on on the Four Keys to Fun and other emotion and games research to help you design more meaningful games here: http://xeodesign.com/whyweplaygames.html Game On! o/
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      Feb 17 2011: To me, the allure of video games, as well as with cinema, is the fact that they allow you to experience things that are not currently possible. Your friends game sounds very interesting.
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      Feb 17 2011: Possible reasons why gamers don't see life as the ultimate game:

      01. They don't have a life? [Disclaimer: This is meant as a joke at the expense of ignorant non-gamers who perpetuate such ideas; I am a gamer, I believe that gaming have done great things for me in my life, as you can tell from my responses in this thread; I did not mean to offend anyone, this should not be taken seriously, and I am sorry if anyone got offended in any way at this line]
      02. No 1-UPs
      03. No downloadable content, so less replay value
      04. You can never find a walkthrough for your version of the game
      05. Mashing buttons doesn't get you too far
      06. No save feature
      07. Plans for sequels are vague at best
      08. Changing your gamertag is more of a hassle, plus some old timers choose it for you!
      09. Wielding 10-foot swords is much more difficult
      10. An impossibly complex dialog tree
      • Feb 18 2011: Wow, really? You're going to insult the gaming demographic? I expected more out of people on this site, but every internet community has it's jerks I suppose.

        I'm actually willing to laugh at 2-10, they're really quite funny, but number 1 I simply can't let slip by. Who are you to decide what having a life is? Who are you to invalidate the passion of thousands upon millions of people? You don't have the right to make such a statement.

        Yours and other statements like yours infuriate me to no end. Would the same thing be said if instead of games we immersed ourselves in books, or movies, or theater, or music, or traditional art? Of course not, because those things have been socially accepted a methods for cultivating the mind. Games can cultivate the mind just as well if not better than all of those combined yet for some reason remain inferior due to this misconceived notion that games are for kids and anyone past a certain age who engages in them leads a sad pathetic life.

        What is "having life" as defined by modern society? From my observations at my current age "having a life" seems to involve going out drinking with friends, doing drugs, and generally being irresponsible until the age of 30. (or until you knock someone up) I can tell you right now that many, many people I have befriended through games live that life and many others. I know people that have families, are disabled war vets, and are from other countries. I have made lasting relationships with people I otherwise would have never known or had the opportunity to exchange ideas with.

        I have sought out information I otherwise never would have thanks to games. I was driven to learn more about the inspiration for the games. I draw immense creative strength from the experiences I've had playing games. They have driven me to better myself as a person; to view the world in whole new shades of understanding; to approach problems from angles I would have never dreamed of. My god, the list just goes on.
        • Feb 18 2011: Every new information technology has been ridiculed at it first introduction. Many people in Plato's time thought that writing would be the end of intelligent thought, because people would no longer have to memorize. Instead, we used this tool to support new kinds of intellectual pursuits. The Nickelodeons were like wise scorned for their cheap and lewd content, but eventually they gave birth to cinema such as Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali The same will be true for games. Remember that more women (64% ) play games online than men. http://news.cnet.com/2100-1043_3-6123172.html
      • Feb 18 2011: I would not be the person I am today without gaming. It has been an integral part of my life since I was very young. Many of the people I know would be completely different without their gaming experiences. Gaming is as much apart of my life as it is anything else I do. It is one part of the whole and without it I would be incomplete; the same as if you removed any part of my life.

        So I don't conform to your perceived ideas of "having a life" is, big deal. Do I, however go around saying that you have no life simply because you do not conform to what I have formed as my perception of "having a life"? Games have driven my ambitions for as long as I can remember, so of course I take great offense when someone says I and my fellows have no life simply because our passions differ from the norm.

        I'll tell you something, games bring lots of happiness to lots of people across this world filled with such rampant despair; same as movies, same as books, same as theater, same as traditional art. As I've come into adulthood I've looked at this despair and asked why it must be so; as to why we must treat each other with such wanton disregard. I looked at this and rejected it as the way I would live my life. That with the talents I was given, and with the experiences I have had. That I would work to impart that same unrestrained wonder and happiness that had been shared with me onto the world.

        So don't you dare; don't you bloody dare have the audacity to say that my chosen life is inferior to yours.
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          Feb 18 2011: Excuse me, I don't think you got the point. If you scroll down to the first response in this thread, i.e. my response, you can see how I said that I've been a gamer most of my life, that gaming has done a lot for me in very important ways, and that I have suffered from discrimination and misunderstanding from non-gamers. In my other responses, I continued to say how gaming is important to me. You will also notice how I put a question mark after the first point. It was meant as a joke, a joke at the expense of those who say ignorant things like that. Now, however, you flagged this post, and I am requested to remove it. Due to this misunderstanding, you just gave me an example of discrimination from a fellow gamer, and a very unpleasant experience (you used the word "despair").
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        Feb 18 2011: I LOLed even before the disclaimer on 1... mostly because I can see the pun in it :-P .

        I guess you could've said "They don't have hitpoints", but where's the fun part of that :D .
      • Feb 18 2011: Excuse me, I don't think you got the point. :)

        To "get" your statement on its own requires some knowledge of you. The assumes quite a bit and Ben Cathey's response is quite understandable. I was also not aware of the question mark's significance in online joke telling. Is this common? (not a joke)

        Also, my first comment on here was about how this looked like trolling and was deleted. But y'know, on its own it really did look like trolling. Ease off, mods.

        UPDATE b/c I can't make a 4th level reply (dumb):

        I get it, you're a gamer and you meant it tongue in cheek, but your responses are assuming that others are fools even though their responses are totally understandable. Man up, realize this, and apologize or, if you're feeling jerky, don't.

        Saying that neither of us "get" you doesn't really make it appealing to try to get you, but I already do. Get it?

        TL;DR I get what you're saying, but you're coming off like a condescending fool. FYI.
    • Feb 19 2011: Why don't gamers see life as the ultimate game? Here are a few things that occurred to me.

      - How do you know that they don't? Personally, I stil enjoy occasional games, but am much more intrigued by problems in real life. For me, games are a comfortable subset of life in which to play and practice mental skills.

      - For many people, life isn't that fun. It can be a grind and not that fun to look forward to, day after day. I used to play backgammon online with random people. For many it was their favorite part of the day. They could relax in a comfortable set of rules and enjoy both winning and losing and chatting with others.

      - Life doesn't let you shoot an alien in the face. Unless we get into a space war, this is the only option :)
    • Feb 19 2011: Because when you lose in real life, you lose. It's just too real! When you fail at a game you can always try again or stop playing. When you fail at life, it's all despair and wanting to escape but you can't because it's real and there's no way out! The horror, the horror!
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    Mar 14 2011: According to a recent UK study, only about 5% of video games are made by women who are in positions that have an effect on how those games are made.

    We need to work at improving the gender balance of game creators.
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    Mar 11 2011: Make popular games a learning tool, give children real thought provoking problems to handle in a game. Games like WOW or COD could easily be manipulated to award gamers with achievments for actually learning something in a game as well as having fun with friends while doing it, i think the possiblities are just opening. Modern kids love thier computers, its part of thier social fabric, we should encourage learning through it not make them feel ashamed for enjoying it more than books or school. When i say real learning games i dont mean the crap like on nintendo (brain training) games like that only teach a child to remember certain answers, it doesnt teach. Give the child a real problem in a game; mathamatical, ethical or moral for example so that he/she and thier friends can learn and solve these problems together, sureley they'd have to turn thier consoles off sometime to gain answers.
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    Mar 9 2011: I got my first computer aged 9 or 10 and was writing games not much longer after that. I loved being immersed in the programming language and learnt a massive amount through that. But that’s not my point.

    I still play games (I’m late 30’s…..) and have just finished one which kept me thoroughly entertained for several weeks. To me it was my interactive book, the escapism that many get from reading novels and to me that’s what games are. Books, games, films are all the same sort of entertainment. I know that it’s not real and I knew that when I was playing games aged 10.

    I think far too much is being read into gaming, if done with a little common sense it can be entertaining, educational and inspirational.

    My daughter who is two and a half is learning how to use a mouse and understand usability standards by playing games on line. They also teach her about the world, alphabet etc. Many revolve around stories.

    So for me gaming is another form of entertainment like books and films but when done right can also be educational.
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    Mar 3 2011: I have written some video games, and so far have had over 21 million page views from young people playing them.

    How do you feel about that statement? Does it invoke a "what a waste of time and opportunity" feeling?

    Does the feeling change if I tell you that the games are educational and have helped millions of students learn topics like balancing chemical equations or graphing on the coordinate plane that can be extremely challenging to grasp? That they are mostly used in the classroom or assigned for homework? And that they have let some students finally understand a hard Math or Science concept after days of frustration trying to learn them the conventional way?

    Why do people hear "video game" and immediately have negative thoughts? Why is that different from "movie"? Both are often purely for entertainment, but some are very educational and uplifting. Yet to some a video game is always a waste of time, but not so for a movie. It's a strange prejudice - the only reason I can think of is that pretty much everyone has tried good modern movies, but not everyone has tried good modern video games.

    If you are curious to try out my video games, please feel free to try them out at FunBasedLearning.com. All the games are completely free. The site's goal is to provide the best educational games for free to any child who can access the internet.

    Sincerely, Sulan Dun sulan@dun.org
    (P.S. If anyone at TED is interesting in meeting up, I'm just in Irvine 45 minutes drive south - drop me a line at sulan@dun.org)
  • Mar 2 2011: Having been a long time gamer in my childhood and youth myself, I would firstly argue that because games demand the gamer to immerse in their virtual reality, the gamer has to relearn and adapt to the different dynamics and rules of every game over and over again. Thus gamers are, at least virtually (=in the way their mind can operate) "shape changers". (depening somewhat on how large the actual differences between the games they play are)

    Are gamers more flexible thinkers? If so, in what aspects of thinking?

    Secondy - because games are fun - might gamers have a tendency to demand the world to be just as good?
    Certainly some heavy-gamers do. This might be either bad - promoting an addiciton, because the real world is just not up to the task (besides graphics) or it might actually be good, because it inspires gamers to believe that another world is possible (certainly I do) and thus give a good reason for improving the real world.

    Thirdly I would like to draw your attention to "Minecraft". Just Google it, watch some Videos on Youtube and try it. It's an interesting phenomenon, because it is one of those rare really new video game concepts.

    One last thought: There is no reason for why video games shouldn't interact with reality. A network between virtual realities and the real world which in some way could make the gamer actually do something useful in RL (or for a start anything at all) could prove a very interesting concept.
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    Mar 2 2011: Video games are the ideal vehicle for teaching young men phsyics, statistics, trigonometry and a variety of other sciences. Why make up bogus tasks that teach them nothing when knowledge could be built into the games in such a rewarding and palitable manner? This would make the time spent on games pay the user and society back.

    Secondly, real world unsolved problems could be incorporated into upper level game play to make the games endlessly challenging and to harness the greatness of the minds that are gaming.
    • Mar 3 2011: Why young men? Why not young men and women? Just curious, as I've been gaming for close to 20 years, and and as much as the gaming community used to be male dominated, it's been my experience that the situation has changed. I currently game with a group that is split at about half and half male/female.
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        Mar 4 2011: Wow! That is great news! Thanks for keeping me honest! I was not aware of a significant female interest in this type of game.
  • Feb 25 2011: This is just a scrape off the top of the cake, but I wanted to share all of this so all this posting was needed...hahah

    When you look at the internet for the first time, you’ll see garbage everywhere. No matter where you search you’ll find something completely useless, and lots of it. It’s what happened when the internet first started blooming, but slowly the little gatherings start to grow and people searching for goodness start to collect there in little clusters. Then these clusters start finding each other and everybody finally realizes they’re not alone and there’s something and somebody AMAZING in the direction they’re looking after all. Like anything. Kind of like TED even... this world is just a giant ball of scattered communities trying to collect all the goodness so we can make everything even better.

    There are bad television shows (I haven’t watched TV in almost 4 years aside from a free movie at a theatre occasionally) there’s bad food (I haven’t had fast food since I was 4 years old and never will again) there’s bad everything. It’s always at the front because it gets all the advertising, airtime, mockery, commercials, publicity and the works.

    Like the internet and anything else, when you look at the surface of gaming, you’ll find zombie killers and mindless remade crap all over the place. If anything, that means if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find an amazing collection of amazing people trying to find all the other amazing people, maybe they'll introduce me to another TEDlike thing.

    Video games (like anything involving technology) are VERY new to us human being creatures, they have a lot to offer both as they are and what they have yet to become (like anything involving technology). Judging ‘Gamers’ as being ‘Stereotypical Gamers’ and ‘Games’ as being ‘Stereotypical Games’ is outdated and naive and has been for a while.

    A lot of 'being difficult to explain' is a lot of the reason why there's even a 'DEBATE' for things like this. :/
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    Feb 22 2011: My life, itself, is a learning game. The settings: Inside myself, within family, local community, larger communities (state, national). Goal: to find satisfaction within myself, and to participate constructively outside of myself. Complications: I am continually changing and so is the world around me. Keys to success: maintain a positive attitude;become aware of feelings in myself and others, learn from everyone, ever thing, and every happening; recognize my strengths and weaknesses; seek support, and enjoy the advantages of being part of a team.
  • Feb 21 2011: john lennon said "time you enjoyed wasting was not wasted" and i have to agree. games are a relaxing diversion. i think by trying to make them 'more worthwhile' we might in fact make them less so.
    personally many of my best ideas come in the middle of or immediately following gaming (or showering, interestingly...(?))
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    Feb 16 2011: I'm a GAMER turned Entrepreneur: therefore I only have time for Awesome and useful games. Some puzzle games literally change the way you think (such as Portal). other games are just for fun (such as angry birds). some games are great at teaching people how to cooperate and work as a team (such as left 4 dead).

    I believe with the advent of useful and free game-making tools such as Unity and with the advent of mobile devices we'll see more and more mini-games (mobile games) designed for average people not hard core gamers as a form of advertising.

    I also believe we'll see hard core games on the PC and other consoles arise for the specific purpose of education because its much easier to learn when you're happy and continually achieving success at small tasks.

    those are my two cents. that's where I think the industry is going.
  • Feb 16 2011: As an avid gamer of computer role playing games and traditional roleplaying games, I find that there are many areas areas of games that are important and fulfilling to me.

    First in any game, there exists a certain game mechanics. These mechanics can be interesting in themselves just as studying any other subject. Anyone who is interested in this should visit a gaming forum such as for Diablo 2 (a 10 year old game) where tactics and discussions about the game mechanics has been and still are discussed at length. It covers thousands and thousands of pages of analysis and exchange of knowledge in these forums. Any other gaming community should experience this phenomena.

    Secondly in a game, there exists some kind of story. Some are well written some are poorly written. In any case regarding quality the stories functions as any other story. A great story will always be a great story and if you like stories in general there is no reason why stories in games would not appeal to you.

    Thirdly in a game, there should be some kind of immersion. Immersion as a human state is something that we only find in certain things, usually the things we are really interested in or are passionate about. Games has an advantage here where it easily makes you feel immersed. I read research on this many years ago where it was found that when playing a computer game, the gamer's brain switch priority on sections/resources of the brain. The conclusion was that you do not get tired from playing a game as with other activites and you are in a state very much like meditation, in the sense that you do not think of anything else than what you are currently doing. In other words, the immersion makes your Attention Focused and you can sustain it for a long time, to use a clinical term.

    Fourth, in games there is always a sense of exploration. This does not need to explained in detail for I beleive it is an experience we can all recognise when we have once had it. As children we all have it.
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    Mar 11 2011: Hi Jane, something I've realized during my own research of games, gamers and their psychology is that when you tell them a game can make a difference, they seem to think it's going to be a boring game with terrible graphics, taking them back to stressful reality. It just doesn't seem FUN! And I have to bloody agree with them. There are a good few "world-changing games" out there but they would normally seem fun and easy to play by people who actually use their brains. Most gamers don't. They just press buttons. We expect them to think about changing the world? Many of them have a hard time considering whether they should change underwear they've been wearing for two weeks. We need to understand them to convince them.

    You yourself stated in your talks, big fan btw, that games are a form of escape. Problem is I've noticed that many gamers seem to think world changing games ... aren't games. Some even went as far as to say that such games seemed liked Trojan horses trying to enter and spoil their humble haven of fun and excitement lol. So at the end of the day, it pretty much just comes down to perception. You need to first get gamers to play before pondering on how the game(s) can make a difference. So game designers in this "genre" need to consider how these games come across first and foremost before anything else.

    Another thing I noticed is that many people seemed to shun off the idea of playing such games. They didn't want to admit it but eventually they said that they didn't like even the idea of such games because they thought they weren't smart or capable enough to play them. So this "realization" of theirs totally destroyed any excitement towards such games right from the start. This is something else that designers need to take into consideration.

    Again. It's all about PERCEPTION in my opinion. When people play MMO's, they know that ANYONE can play them. There are no drawbacks except whether or not your PC has specs capable of running the game.

    2 Cents
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    Mar 11 2011: From a lot of video games come lessons of conserving, rationing, reasoning, logic, planning, strategy, accuracy (arguable), patience, practice, team work, the list goes on. It isn't fair to even consider video games as a problem (If that is what you are doing) how many hours and how much money does gambling use? How many people use the internet for porn over learning? Plenty of other hobbies/addictions take up much more time by many more people.

    However if you are honestly curious in the addiction of video games, that really depends on the game.

    games like world of warcraft have an "other world" effect on people where they can escape to and be someone else who can do impossible things

    video games to me are for the mind to break free from reality and mix it with unreality.
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    Mar 9 2011: UCSF (and others as well) are doing research into this question as it relates to the aging process. Video Games used by aging population can actually have a positive impact on memory and potentially slow the impact of dementia.
  • Mar 3 2011: I am a chix0r for more than 20 years now. The evolution of the video game has spawned creative outlets for the gamer and production teams alike. Something as simple as the determination and tenacity to build your own computer for better game play or the wit to learn development to create a bot (automated program to assist in game play), gives kids and adults alike the motivation and testing environment to learn and create new facets of technology.

    What's one thing you wish non-gamers would understand about your favorite games, and what you get out of playing them?
    1) Social interaction with domestic and international friends. I have friends I have known for a lifetime that I would have otherwise lost contact with over the years, and new friends made through the healthy competition of game play in foreign countries. International and local friends that I have met using the foundation of "a game".

    2) Business contacts obtained based solely on the efficiency and execution of game play, an example of your strategic skills, teamwork, and leadership can be a great first sign of your real life capabilities.

    3) Those that play together stay together. My Husband and I have played video games for years together, fell in love, and still play together now. We have a great time both in and out of the game and gives a break from the daily routine of work and parenting.

    4) Let’s not forget gaming isn't just about rocking people’s faces off. You have video games that educate and promote the ability to multitask. My children learn anything they can get their hands on through a computer. Your baby can read? My baby can read and program!

    Yes there is this thing called Sun that we need and fresh air, but that is what Laptops are for =)

    *My Nephew made a bot for his video game. While I was proud he took the time to learn how to program, I had to teach him that Real Gamers don't use bots and rely on skill. His Reply "That's old school and inefficient"*
  • Feb 27 2011: The constant argument people that don't play videos will say is that they are a waste of time, they fail to realize that playing video games for almost everyone is a hobby. A hobby is something that is done for fun, it isn't supposed to be productive time, it is supposed to be relaxing, bird watching or painting isn't a waste of time to somebody that enjoys doing it.

    While I do still play videos now, I don't play them as often as when I was younger, I generally have one game I play for a long period of time instead of constantly getting new games.

    I am 32, I don't think my video game habits when I was a kid are the same as what kids are doing now, which seems to be a lot of them completely avoid going outside to do anything and only want to play video games. I didn't understand it for a long time, I wondered if they are just lazy, or if games are just that much better now from when I was a little.

    I think kids are spending so much time playing video games now because they are very restricted in what they can do outside and at school. When I was going to elementary school during the winter everyone worked on snow forts, every group of friends had a fort, the entire school yard was filled with them, kids from kindergarten to grade 5 built snow forts everywhere. The school had areas for having snowball fights, if you were in that area, got hit by a tossed snowball and complained to a teacher they just told you not to go back in there. No schools around allow kids to build a snow fort, or throw a snowball, it is considered too dangerous. I realized that this is the reason why I don't see snow forts around houses anywhere, kids aren't allowed to build them at school with their friends so why would they build them at home?

    The point of explaining that is that it gives one example of kids being told not to be kids when playing outside, they are over protected, the only place that kids might be a allowed to throw a snowball now is in a video game. The only place a young child is allowed to be a child is in video games.
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      Feb 28 2011: I fully agree with you, kids should be allowed to be kids!

      I was very happy to read a few days ago that a new law has been passed here in Germany stating that it is ok for children to make noise whilst they are playing and that neighbours and other residents just have to put up with it, it's part of human nature. Then again I also find it awkward that such a law is necessary in the first place.
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    Feb 24 2011: I have been a designer, innovator and executive in the games industry for over two decades. I have been balancing the fine line between "meaningful" and "commercially viable" since my career in games started. I am fortunate to have worked on dozens of games projects in the commercial sector that provided educational family oriented fun. I have designed and led the development of training games for the DoD as well as wellness experiences, and several MMOs that enable young people to explore cultures and vocations online.

    What I have learned through my years of experience is that almost any "task" in games can be turned into "fun" with the right balance of rewards and feedback.

    I am currently working on something truly different. GiG is a Facebook game that requires reading and writing. Imagine that! We are in the early stages of launching a social game that gives players the opportunity to solve the world’s challenges. We are constantly posing new challenges inspired from the headlines of the day.

    The TED community is invited to take advantage of our game to showcase your innovative ideas. The game asks players to provide a concise wsolution to a challenge and then gives the player the option of backing the idea with evidence. This evidence can be a link to a TED talk, a blog, an article, or anything else the player feels supports her solution.

    When a new solution enters the IDEA MARKET stream where players can vote on its merit, buy it with virtual currency (a real-time algorithm assigns market value based on player interactions), back it with more supportive evidence or bash it with evidence that proves the idea to be false.

    Players mover up levels based on their skillful buying, backing, bashing and authoring of solutions.

    Our goal is to make Global Innovation Game (GiG) a meaningful game that can provoke debate and inspire real world change. Please stop by & share your thoughts: http://apps.facebook.com/Globalinnovationgame
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    Feb 22 2011: I wish games aren't perceived to be in the same league as masturbation. Non-gamers think I'm wasting my life, when I should be 'out'. While they can be addictive, games are also highly economical when it comes to leisure. Spend $60 on a new game, and you may get 2-3 months out of it, depending on its length and replay-ability. It may come down to generational differences. Those in power are 20 years older than the average age of gamers, which is around the mid-30s last I heard.

    Loved your talk btw.
    • Feb 23 2011: good point, a lot of people do seem to assume that gamers are playing instead of socialising, when in fact it's usually instead of something else (watching tv in my case). sure there are some people who will unfortunately choose to play over something more 'worthwhile', but in my 7 years teaching it's been clear that this is a minority, and that this problem is actually a symptom.
  • Feb 22 2011: I'm writing this without looking at any of the other comments, yet. 10,000 hours sounds like a great deal! Malcolm Gladwell's book indicates that it requires 10,000 hours of work to become truly proficient at a skill - e.g. The Beatles. The games would need to be channeled well but could actually build strength and understanding as well as skill. On the other hand it could be a horrible waste - someone feeling stupid for wasting time. My son has graduated from college and left his old life behind, but I still play "Tetris" on his Gameboy, it helps to keep me alert and sharp for the rest of my life. I'm sure a dedicated gamer would laugh at the simplicity but it gives a me great deal of help, as it did when he was younger and we both played. How much time did I spend running and training for my races and marathon? I think that was very positive, but perhaps the game gives back too.
  • Feb 21 2011: In the modern history of consumer technology, what begins as compulsion ends as a tool. When radio started nobody could get enough of it: now we use it for what we want. Same for most of us with TV. When we started the commercial Internet in the early '90's, we spent all our time emailing and waiting for downloads: now, email has a key but not exclusive role in the rapid communications toolkit, and so does the telephone. I predict the same thing is already happening with Facebook and Twitter, and will happen with the newer group building social media. As for gaming, I'd expect the same: from compulsion to tool for -- not sure what -- One thing we do know: whatever the kids who are now 4 will be doing when they're sixteen, it won't be facebook or twitter.