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.
  • Feb 19 2011: I agree with the OP/author's premise, at least in part. I've been unemployed for several months. Before then, my reality was filled with problem-solving, teamwork, and goals. Since losing my job I have been playing a fair amount of video games, largely as an escape, but also to replace missing aspects of my day-to-day life. In my virtual realities I can experience challenge, teamwork, creation, and a general sense of accomplishment that has been lacking in my reality.

    As my unemployment has dragged on, I have desired to get back into pencil and paper RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons, which I played in high school. These RPGs are the foundation of the deeply immersive and progress oriented video games of today. I know one reason I want to participate in these types of games is to further correct the errors in my current reality. What I wish non-gamers understood is the tremendous learning potential that games like these hold.

    Games provide not only an escape, but an accelerated learning experience. Playing Dungeons & Dragons in high school taught me about using teamwork to reach goals, especially to utilize strengths and mitigating weaknesses. Knowing how to ensemble and best utilize each member of a team is a valuable skill. I was able to explore, use, and hone this skill at a young age. In a few 3 hour gaming sessions I was able to experience what would have taken me months or even years to experience in school or a working environment. Not only does gaming allow me to improve upon my daily reality, but it allows me to improve upon the wider realities of learning and experience.

    You know you're playing a good game when it draws you in. It's then that you know the game is fixing some part of a broken reality. I don't know that reality is broken, but everyone's reality is definitely flawed at times. That draw can also be dangerous. But the value of video games is to provide something that most other forms of "entertainment" cannot; the best teacher, experience.
  • Feb 18 2011: For two decades as a games industry consultant I have made screens more engaging by watching the emotions on gamer's faces as they play. I have also applied this research to unlock the mechanics of why we play games for games and for interface design.

    In the 20 years since I began we’ve discovered so many ways games are good for us, (see free white papers on the xeodesign.com website.) Consider these four reasons why we play games. I call them the Four Keys to Fun.

    1. GAMES Create and discover new worlds through curiosity, wonder, and surprise what I call Easy Fun.
    2. GAMES Build skills and encourage us to try again. We can fail 80% of the time and still feel like we win. This opportunity for challenge and mastery I call Hard Fun and it creates frustration that leads to fiero (Italian for the feeling of the epic win where the player punches the sky)
    3. GAMES Connect Us. As Plato once said, “I learn more about a person in an hour of play than a lifetime of conversation.” Social emotions like generosity, naches, gratitude, amusement, and even schadenfreude bind us together. I call this People Fun, and players tell us that it's people who are addictive, not the game. These game mechanics expose the processes and emotions that make team work possible.
    4. GAMES Change us and our world. All games teach. Players like games more that have meaning for them. Whether it's playing Wii Fit to lose weight or Brain Age to get smarter, people play games to change how they think feel and behave.

    Game designers have worked for decades to make players feel as victorious as a space marine, as rich as King Midas collecting screen fulls of gems, the satisfaction from milking cows, or the social glow form spending time with friends all from a simple click of a button. Game designers are wizards at engagement.

    Kids and games are the future. To meet their future responsibilities we must use games to unlock their potential and help them improve quality of life through play.
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    Feb 17 2011: I'm fascinated by what makes games fun. I want to know why it's easy to sit in front of an MMO and undertake repetitive tasks that ultimately involve data analytics or project/team management yet doing the same thing in the work place is tiresome. Why does it have to be this way?

    I want to create an audit process that feels like playing Diablo - collecting data like it was loot, and "leveling" up by crunching the stats and getting the perfect build. I want to hire the players who analyze games like GuildWars and find the "optimal" character build and playstyles and get them to dig around my ERP system to optimize my business processes. I want them to have the same amount of fun in that ERP system as they have in their game world.

    I want to run a project team with 20+ people scattered over the country or world who can maintain focus on a collaborative task for 6-9 hours the way guild leaders can coordinate end-game raids in games like World of Warcraft. Better yet, I want to recruit these guild leaders to run these teams for me - after all, they've already been doing it successfully for years.

    We are seeing new ways of working, new opportunities that require a set of skills that are not taught in school but ARE being taught in today's games. I believe that companies that recognize this and recruit accordingly will have access to a massive disruptive capability.
    • Feb 18 2011: I feel a big opportunity with games is to use game like interaction in a non-game contexts. We don't need to escape into games to get the benefit of game like interaction. Since Cyan created a game called Myst, I've been using games to inspire my interface design work for websites like BlogHer.com, encyclopedias like the Encyclopedia Britannica and Totally Mad (Mad Magazine), courseware like Chemistry of Life, enterprise software from Cisco, training games for Oracle, utilities such as Roxio's Easy CD Creator and Toast, and of course games like The Sims and Diner Dash. Games are the future of interaction design.

      Jane wrote a great white paper for the IFTF on the Engagement Economy that handily sums up a number of researchers on what makes games fun here: http://bit.ly/gWGuaP
    • Feb 19 2011: "I'm fascinated by what makes games fun. I want to know why it's easy to sit in front of an MMO and undertake repetitive tasks that ultimately involve data analytics or project/team management yet doing the same thing in the work place is tiresome. Why does it have to be this way? "

      One of the reasons games are "fun" is because it is about the gamers' hopes and dreams. Accomplishment of other people's desires is work. This is a big issue in the Serious Gaming movement. You can't swap out the important content of people's hopes and dreams with your chosen goal or cause. It is always secondary to the player's personal needs and issues...

      That doesn't mean that the interface thing won't work. It will still feel like work but maybe work that is more fun or efficient and that would be amazing.
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        Feb 20 2011: I agree that no amount of applied game design will significantly change how someone feels if they're working for someone/on something they don't love, believe in, care about, etc.

        I'm not sure that games are about hopes and dreams though. I don't think Spider Solitaire or Freecell taps into any of my hopes and dreams. I get a satisfaction from recognizing a pattern, but it's usually a sign that I need to stop playing when my dreams are of moving cards from stack to stack.

        But I think you're close. I think it's more like the inverse of hopes and dreams - it's about the lack of external consequence. I can lose at Freecell and it's ok, I can just start again. Or not. Interestingly, when I used to play it a lot and would get massive streaks, it stopped becoming "fun" because losing suddenly meant breaking a 600+ win streak. There was a lot at stake and it was easier not to play than to risk the loss. Suddenly, the game had external consequence because the streak represented a large investment in time.

        I think the trick to making serious games work in business is finding a way to remove external consequence. This can't be done within the game - it requires a change to the business model upon which the serious game is layered. This is why simulations are easy - they're just a learning tool so if you fail nothing is at risk. But I can't see anyone creating a "bejewelled" like interface to a nuclear power plant.
        • Feb 28 2011: I agree that most of the satisfaction received from simple non-story games is about something like "accomplishment". But you were referencing Diablo and MMOs which have significant story and imaginative elements.

          I like the idea of removing external consequences which would create a more flexible and accelerated learning environment. Maybe you could make an interface where consequences were not as large of an issue if you created a sandbox. Then when you finally beat the big boss (which represents a real world issue) your solution is recorded, tested, and acted on accordingly. So just like a real game only winning counts. The number of times you fail to gain the skills or achievement doesn't matter (except in terms of time). My instinct tells me this would be very difficult to create though...
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    Feb 17 2011: One of the things I love about games is the feeling of accomplishment when you complete an insanely difficult part with friends. I don't game alone, just with friends. This strengthens your relationships and helps you practice your skills in for example leadership, quick thinking, coordination. Often, we would come out of a 4+ hour gaming-session and I would feel just as accomplished as when I sucessfully completed a big project.

    What I wish non-gamers would understand: Games are actually a way of improving your skills as well as strenghtening your relationships
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    Feb 17 2011: Let me provide a perspective from an ex-hardcore PC gamer. A couple of years ago I used to play games like Starcraft and World of Warcraft about 10-16 hours a day. This number has been decreasing ever since, and these days weeks can go by during which I don't touch a single game.

    Still, I do not look back on my gaming years as a waste of time. The most compelling element for me was the social aspect of these games. I played World of Warcraft with many of my real-life friends, and playing the game together significantly contributed to the strength of our relationship. In other words, I think you hit the nail on the head when you speculate about the social benefits of games. In addition, games challenged me as a problem-solver, and they gave me a sense of belonging to a group.

    Looking back, some of those days of grinding and doing something repetitive because I needed to finish a quest were perhaps a waste of time. But on average, I experienced moments of joy that I will forever cherish: defeating a huge boss with my friends, and being the first on the entire server to do so, leading a top guild, having the top gear, fighting against other players and constantly finding ways of out-smarting them in an arena (an exceptionally intellectually stimulating activity, actually)... If I had a choice of going back, I would do it all over again.

    Did these "wasted" years damage me forever in some way? Not at all. I am doing extremely well as a graduate student, I am winning awards and fellowships, I am going on to complete a PhD at MIT, and overall, I am on my way to becoming a productive member of the society.

    I wish non-gamers understood that there is more to playing games than just playing games.
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    Feb 17 2011: Video games appeal to my view of entertainment in general. When an entertainer does not also educate, they have lowered the quality of living of the world. When the effects of an entertainment are contrary to the people being entertained, that is the entertainers fault.

    In TV, Movies, things should be factual. Entertainment can be educational.

    The Blizzards of the world should adopt causes with 5 out of the 15 dollars a month they charge their 11 million subscribers to play their games, to create a unified front of world betterment.

    When a gaming company develops a game, the story should be historical, should have philosophical commentary, and should allow the person to learn, and make their own decisions about Plato, Hitler, Mathematics.

    It doesn't have to be painful... learning is deeply satisfying... education, well, isn't.
  • Feb 16 2011: When General Eisenhower was president of Columbia University someone came to him and asked him what to do with the people that were walking outside the sidewalks and were killing the grass creating trails to between the buildings. His response was...You see those trails were the people are killing the grass.? That's were the people want to go so,.... why don't we built the sidewalks were the people are actually wanting to go?
    The same can apply to video games. If people are spending 3 billion hours on the computers a week why instead of criticizing this human behavior (Like people killing the grass under their feet) we don't change the software to be more engaging towards educational and real life like situations to teach positive things to the millions of people that are already using the computers. All it takes is convincing the programmers to change their paradigm of programing violent games like shooters of the GTA series.
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    Feb 16 2011: As a gamer parent, I think games have been a valuable tool in teaching my son, with ADHD, patience and taking the long view when acquiring new skills. For example, when he started school and was expected to learn to read, he struggled with it. It was boring, it took a lot of sitting still, it was repetitious, and at the end of the day, he still couldn't 'read'. So we compared it with 'skilling up' and 'grinding levels' in World of Warcraft, which he plays cooperatively sitting side by side with two computers with my husband.
    When we explained that learning to read was something that takes practice and repetition and each time you drill a new letter sound or whatever, you get one skill point that eventually counts towards levelling up, which eventually gets you to the final epic goal of having learned to read, he became totally motivated. Each day after school we'd ask: 'did you skill up your reading today?' and he always had.
    This is something I wish non-gamers could understand. He doesn't game just to wind down or to give us, his parents, a break. Gaming is one thing that is easy for ADHD sufferers to do (boundaried world, flashy lights = keeps your attention and guides your impulses). But it's not a cop-out. It helps him create a habit of sticking with something for longer than 3 seconds and seeing the larger, long-term goal as achievable, because those little skill points add up. And we have successfully helped him export those skills to the real world. I think he is happier and more successful in school because of games.
    It's a small sample and not scientifically relevant, but his younger sister does not game and also struggles in school. But we find it much more difficult to get her to persist and try her best. She is much more likely to give up or choose the easy option rather than 'grind' skill points.
    I've blogged about this quite a bit. http://whymothersneverdrinkhottea.blogspot.com/
  • Feb 16 2011: As a gamer, I believe that playing a good game improves intelligence, reflexes and makes happy. You can do, have, plan, get ...many things in a game that you probably never have in a real world; so it enriches your life while you are on it.
    • Feb 16 2011: Of course you do. If you thought otherwise you would stop playing games. But the question is not subjective. The question is are they ACTUALLY improving your intelligence, reflexes and your happiness level. And is that ever increasing? And what happens to you when you are separated form game playing for a day, a month, a week?
  • Feb 16 2011: Didn't Nero fiddle while Rome burned. Video-games are entertainment and there is a social advantage to having entertainment. But you wouldn't watch TV all day, you wouldn't Jump Rope all day and still say its healthy. Video-game playing resemble addictive behavior, where player will forgo healthy habits to continue to play, more than they resemble entertainment. Using the medium of a video-game to to aid in education is a great alternative use of the technology. In doing so you are reclassifying the activity. Physical Therapy is exercise but it is very different than jogging. Rather than try and attribute some social benefit to gaming, let's look at what could be done with that time. Technology has given us a lot of free time, wouldn't it be better to use that time to make our world better. Maybe by helping the poor or beautifying a park, or just picking up litter. I believe that a true look at video-gaming will find more negative's in its current state than positives. As for whether they are fun, you bet they are, so are a lot of other things that we shouldn't be doing all the time.
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    Feb 16 2011: I personally found a way to recognize, whether the game I'm playing were good for me. The way is called "inspiration". If the game gives me motivation, for my dissertation, for blogging, for some creative projects, if the game continues to live inside of me, even after I ended my playing session - this is good game.

    If I feel void inside of my mind, so it's the last time I played that game.

    I as gamer would higly appreciate the game as cultural and psychological phenomenon. The abstract thinking, ideal imagination (in the Platonic meaning of "idea") are developed with huge success while of playing games, combinating of items and logical strategy. I also percieve the game as an art work, or also as meditation space: you can see me sometimes staying in the virtual woods, staring at pixelized skies above my avatar.

    So the game is actually enhancement of your perception, of your senses, of your mind - either it's a table game, or video/computer game, or Alternate Reality Game. Actually, I most appreciate ARGs, because of their "Team-geist", because of their creativity and because of communication between game master and player.

    Well, after this egocentric digression above:
    I hope (and nearly sure) children playing games will be able to build better world outside of their mind, as our ancestors, who hadn't this great ability to try without consequences in the physical world. They tried _with_consequences, and their errors and mistakes brought suffering to our reality. But the youngsters can try out, before implementation.

    And the only one important thing, games cannot teach us, is: to understand the value (in its non-conservative meaning) of the consequences in the context of society. But this is not the task of games. This is task of our society, of our education and of everybody of us.

    Task of the games is to teach us new ways of thinking and imagination, cooperation and communication.
  • Feb 16 2011: My post is really raising more questions rather than answering any but I'd like to begin the debate anyhow.

    I think that an important issue to raise is the current limitation on the way in which we experience the (video) game environment. Our experience of the game world is mediated through a screen which necessitates sitting, or in the case of the Wii or Kinect, moving in front of a screen.

    There are examples of games like ARGs which do take place in the 'real world' of course but I'm wondering about where computer games, which have a visual richness, will go next? What kinds of substrates will they be available on? Walls? Floors? Tables? It seems to me that these surfaces will still only be extensions of the screen.

    I wonder what will happen if and when the game environment begins to bleed more seamlessly into the rest of our experience?
  • Feb 16 2011: your research dont match with mine. I saw this excercise done with a classroom full of kid of about 12 years old. Some of them were playing violent video games and others not. When they ones who were playing the violent games were then showed news footage of real life violence their hearts rate stayed the same which differed from the other group.

    Another part of this experiement had random kids picked out of the groups supposedly to have a real interview with an adult. it was set up of course. At the end of the adult's desk was a jar full of pens, and when he goes to reach for one he knocks of pens which go everywhere. The kids who had been playing the violent vids hardly flinched and didn't help the adult pick them up, whilst the others did. Ie, the former had lost empathy

    Also from a BBC documentary, Panorama ‘Addicted to Games?’ (shown 6/12/10)--transcript: "Adrian Hon, Chief Creative, SixToStart “ I don’t think people understand just how powerful some game mechanics can be. It’s one thing to say I am playing too much, and to just stop playing, because some video games are designed in a manner so you just don’t want to leave.”
    He [Adrian] says powerful psychological techniques are used such as ‘The Variable rate of Enforcement’ which works like a jackpot or slot machine [shows images of ‘lab rats’ being tested on pushing a button]. The idea developed after scientists discovered their victims – lab rats – taught to feed themselves by pressing a lever would press it obsessively when the food appeared randomly.
    And people have found this works on humans as well. If you go give people a lever to press or a button to press and give them random rewards based on pressing that, they will do it all the time.
    In games instead of food you randomly get extra lives or extra in-game features to keep you playing. The idea is to create a compulsion loop to keep us coming back for more. It’s simple but powerful and is thought to explain why people get addicted to slot machi"
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      Feb 16 2011: "and others not"? Meaning? Did they played other kinds of video games or did they played nothing? Sounds to me like your control group played nothing.

      With that in mind, I think the phenomenon you saw in your research is due to the realization in children about the power of what they had experienced. A person doesn't think clearly at those times.

      "A murder of a few dozen people in a bank", the 12 year old subconciously thinks "Strange... why does it remind me of the video game... why did he do it? I did it in the game because it was the objective... he had no objective... or did he? What was is? Money? What did he gained by it? What did I gained from the game? I [insert premise of video game] which in the end was good for all in the game... his actions weren't good for anyone...."

      During this whole process, the mind is too drifted in thought for compassion to take place, and therefore for hearthrate to change.

      As for the pen thing... when you've been playing a game where you're powerful enough to pick up heavy stuff and kill bad guys, it's natural to look at minor mishaps like pen drop and think "Meh... if I can virtually handle much more disasterous scenarios, he can in reality handle this minor one".

      Try to give both groups a common "great" goal to follow... like cleaning up their school/park/whatever for example. You'll probably see that those playing video games (even if violent ones) are putting more effort into it, because they think of this goal as being "the key to the next level, where we'll make more difference to the world", whereas those not playing will just think of it as a chore.
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    Feb 16 2011: Games have been an essential part of our culture throughout our development. The benefits are numerous, and the concepts varied. They are a necessary component for development of real world interactions and management. From teaching children shapes colors and sounds, to military war games that train troops and develop new tactics. Video games get a bad rap due to complexity and immersion. Without the A.I., video graphics, network support, etc. there is no difference between the concepts of say, chess and starcraft. Both rely on unit management and tactical command. Just the modes and strategies are different. I think non-gamers are either afraid of or simply do not understand the deep involved complexity of video games as they seem to replace their current reality.

    I grew up playing games with my family in a social environment, but I also played video games during the 80's and 90's when they started taking off. Around 2003 or so I gave up on current games that are driven by complexity and boiled down my experience back to the basics. I wasn't able to play any new game and develop a different "experience" or reward for finishing, other than saying I did. I still play old school arcade games(Pac-Man, Paperboy, Q*Bert) for a quick fix, but when I sit down at the bar(Which turns out is a GREAT social gaming network) to place Gin, Go or what have you, I still get the same satisfaction and mental rewards as I used to playing say Call of Duty(I try new games every now and then).

    So yes, games are excellent tools for learning, training, and developing skills needed for real world interaction. Non-gamers are not really non-gamers, they are simply adverse to video games that have gotten to complex for them. Kasparov is a gamer yet no one questions his lifestyle, of course, Chess isn't as immersive as say WoW.
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    Feb 16 2011: q: How do we know when we're playing a good game -- and when would we be better off doing something "real"?

    a: A game is good when it employs the need for problem-solving orientated towards character development. Character development can be viewed both on-line and off-line. Character development is the process by which we improve our understanding and enactment of virtue. When qualities necessary for collaboration and conflict resolution are supported in a game all the better. Furthermore, the purpose of video games in psychological development through the role-play experience should be properly understood. The engagement of a fantasy character can help with conflict resolution in real life through empowerment and other psycho-social processes.

    Games that feature and glorify violence are troublesome because they further desensitize us and the opportunities for positive growth are often missed in the pursuit of lower pleasures.

    It is time to step away from the screen when we realize that we are not engaging thoughtfully in a game and when it impairs our functioning in real life--our habits of sleeping, eating, self-care, work, abilities to interact with real-life people particularly those not engaged in on-line gaming with us. Also if we notice sadness, anxiety, or depression when not in a gaming environment, the need to step back and gain perspective with the support of others is needed.
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    Feb 15 2011: why video games? why not dancing? watching sport on TV? playing soccer? going to watch a new action movie? drinking in a bar?

    spending our free time in an entertaining and satisfying way (whatever it is) is basically the goal of life. we don't need a reason why we do this. this is the reason why we do other things, like work.

    we play computer games, because computer games are often much more entertaining than other activities.
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    Feb 15 2011: I'm a casual gamer... I like to relax and have fun once in a while. So I think there will always be a need/outlet for that. Spending 20+ hours week, late nights, early morning, etc. was a thing of the past- but I think there should be limits. I enjoy regular live "people" games as well: (Uno, Phase 10, Dominoes, Pit, etc.) and I think we should add that balance in our gaming diet, too. It's good to mix it up...

    I wish we could game for a cause or to actually build something. Or explore somewhere real. Perhaps a shooter where we take out the evil cancer cells... ??? To me there should be something we can reach together as a world team!! At least one goal?? Or is this wishful thinking?
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      Feb 16 2011: I don't think it's wishful thinking at all! :) At gameful.org, we're tracking games that are trying to channel gameplay for real world-ends. My favorite right now is EteRNA, which you can play at http://eterna.cmu.edu/content/EteRNA in order to help scientists work on cures for diseases like cancer and Alzheimers. You play by designing RNA in a virtual environment -- the tiny molecules at the heart of every cell. There's a weekly competition to design the RNA that "folds" best, and then scientists synthesize it for real in their lab. You don't need any scientific training or background to play.
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    Feb 15 2011: As a researcher who studies how games affect our emotions and how we relate to one another, my experience is that many people who don't game haven't realized what a powerful medium we have on our hands--one capable of contributing immensely to the social good, as Jane points out in her book.

    Learning is one great example--many game designers feel we've only scratched the surface of what's possible in terms of improving the educational experience kids have, using games. As part of the NYU Games for Learning Institute's work, a colleague and I (and our grad students), interviewed professional game designers about learning and games, and the results were fascinating (see http://www.katherineinterface.com/isbister_flanagan_CHI.pdf). A lot of what they said had to do with how powerfully games can move players to care about learning--involving their feelings, giving them a lived experience, one that they can share with other players in real time.

    Games provide immersive, real-time, adaptive and shared experience that can be crafted toward many different ends--my students understand this, and I'm convinced as they go out into the world and take leadership positions in our institutions, that gaming will be more a part of how we accomplish important societal aims like education.
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      Feb 16 2011: That's such a great way to describe the experience of gaming -- "how powerfully games can move players to care about learning." One of my favorite worldchanging projects is Quest to Learn, which uses game design to inform the schedule and curriculum of an entire middle school. I'm not sure many folks are aware of just how many resources Quest to Learn has put online, so you can learn about the philosophy of the school, see sample schedules and classes and learning quests and "boss battles". There are tons of downloads -- like sample curriculum -- here: http://q2l.org/downloads
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    Feb 15 2011: If the act of playing had some positive effect on the real world, all this common time could be used for good, and players wouldn't have to stop playing.
    As an optimistic guy, I think that players already have a positive impact as they fuel the economy with their passion. Giving jobs to thousands of people around the world who develop, support, and distribute the games.
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    Feb 15 2011: I'd like to share my take on games. People can create their own worlds in video games, online virtual reality, or Lego blocks. What if we had the same power in terms of creating our own physical realities? Then we could create our means of survival: comfortable habitats beyond resource scarcity - where we can then focus on our true passions and interests. To this end, we're developing the Global Village Construction Set (see 2 min vid at http://vimeo.com/16106427 )- a construction set for relocalizing production to generate true wealth and meaning - by the use of modern but appropriate technology. By open-sourcing critical pieces of infrastructure-creation, such as solar energy production or conversion of rocks to aluminum or soil to food - we can master our ability to survive. Is this possible on a small scale? We are beginning to demonstrate that this can be done on the scale of villages - which thus become totally self-determining, and where people can begin to pursue their most creative endeavors. Can gaming help to get us to this end-state?
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      Feb 15 2011: Why, yes.
      • Feb 16 2011: I'm not a particularly big fan of this localisation of resources. Indeed, that's how all civilisations began, by producing their own food and although you can have these experimental or rebel pockets of villages that are self-sufficient, in the macro scale of direction that populations around the world are reflecting is rapid globalization and inter-cultural interactions. You could say that our world is in itself a self contained village but that's where ideas of free trade for all, abolition of trade boundaries and free expression of ideas as you mentioned will come into play, propelling us into a new state of enlightenment or existence. Also, the argument against open-source are plentiful... mainly, how can you ever have a collectively owned discussion forum, such as TED which in itself is a culmination of private interests thinking for the whole, not a spontaneous embrace of strangers.
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    Feb 15 2011: So: How do we know when we're playing a good game -- and when would we be better off doing something "real"?

    If I play games out of boredom, in a routine, consequently for many hours, than I should be doing something in real world instead, as otherwise playing video games is a waste of time.

    A good game, is when I play with my girlfriend in one team or when I play with friends who are at other cities. I find that playing video games with my girlfriend is rewarding because we learn how to communicate more effectively. Apparently I micro manage her a lot, so we had to work that out.
    Secondly, lots of my friends live in different cities, and the way we stay in touch is by playing games together. Modern games such as Starcraft II have social network and chat integrated so its easy to keep in touch with friends and do something together like play a game.

    GAMERS: What's one thing you wish non-gamers would understand about your favorite games, and what you get out of playing them?
    I think that Non-Gamers tend to attach stigma to gamers, such as having no life and no social skills. While it is true of some gamers, but majority of gamers are not like that. Majority of my friends who are gamers are executive members of different university clubs, participate in politics as well as organize local TEDx events. Additionally, all of my friends who are gamers, participate in sports such as kiteboarding.
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    Feb 14 2011: I'm a gamer. I'm not sure that there's anything that I'd like non-gamers to understand about my favorite games (currently playing Persona 3 on the PSP), because I've generally come to feel that non-gamers do not wish to understand and are not open-minded. It's a little like trying to understand why I'm reading the story "The Wonderful Ice Cram Suit" by Ray Bradbury - if you have to ask a question that general, I'm inclined to give you a general answer.
    I don't game that much these days, and there were times in the past that I had to limit myself (gamed too much), but I can tell you about some of the good things that games have done for me:
    - video games are the reason I'm able to write this - as a 15-year-old, I was crazy about the new "next-gen" consoles (e.g. PS1), but no local Polish gaming magazines covered them, so I devoured 3 thick English gaming magazines per month, and my English skills skyrocketed (nowadays, games help me with my Japanese)
    - I learned a thick structured social world of symbols, expectations, lingo and imaginary worlds that I would be oblivious of without gaming - compare never having read a fiction book in one's life (there are literary reviews, conventions, theories, people interviewed and being interesting to talk to by virtue of being writers - there are gaming magazines, a subculture, history, championships, documentaries, parodies)
    - I first learned about computers through Logo, but then through gaming, which ultimately helped me in things like finding friends online, or getting a job
    - video game soundtracks
    - being able to get away from it all in tough times easier than with a book (plus, you can get away with friends)

    There are many things that would not be there without games, and I'll finish with an example - the webseries "The Guild." (Another bonus: as a gamer, I get more of the jokes). Here's a promo for the show that I think fits the theme of this conversation :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMrN3Rh55uM
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    Mar 9 2011: Well gaming for me simply is the best way to pass my time...
    It entertains me and at times influences me to use my brain....
    Gaming for me is not just a source of entertainment but also a medium of knowledge..
    I like playing Tycoon games...
    Thanks to those games that build up interest in me to start a business...
    I am opting for commerce in my +2.....and I owe my this decision to those tycoon games...
    So Gaming is one of the finest way to build up interest in a Child (especially)..
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    Mar 7 2011: Jane, your talk was one of my favorites from TED2010.

    I struggle with this question you pose every single day. In my house it's called screen time. Wii, iPod Touch, Macs, TV, etc all fall into the screen time category but the most coveted screen time by the under 11 crowd is games.

    The problem we mortals face in competing for kids' attention is that video game makers are better at grabbing and holding attention than parents, teachers and most other people in the average child's life. The lure of gaming comes down to two things: one, what is the alternative in the mind of the child, and two, the addiction to the stimulus being created via these games. There are positives and negatives to both of these factors.

    Can we take the positive aspects of these two factors and leverage them and gaming to the benefit of society or do we end up becoming overraught with all the negative aspects of these factors no matter what we do?

    We simply don't know the answer to this question and therein lies the danger. Who wants their child to be the guinea pig to figure this out knowing that when we receive our answer it could be too late to reverse any damage which may have been done.

    On the other hand, if we as a society could figure out a way to jack ourselves into the Matrix without losing ourselves to the addiction while creating a real-time simulation with an ultimate sense of community, there are probably no problems we couldn't solve together. I hope I live long enough to know the answer to these questions.
  • Mar 4 2011: Has anyone given a due attention to the fact that we are having the FIRST generation of adults (mostly young, but with children) who keep playing EN MASSE the games they used to play in their teens (well, maybe not always the same games, but the same type of games)? Civilization has changed: the time given to work (or college studies, or business, etc.) plus homework does not cover a full non-sleepy week, and spare time can be given to a hobby, mainly to gameplaying, three billion hours a week.
    Thus, gaming can be seen not entirely as a personal dimension, it is a gift from the whole civilization.
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    Mar 4 2011: I wanted to add: an interesting read on the value of the useless (i.e. senseless/non-utilitarian/non-pedagogic games) is the anthropology of french philospher Georges Bataille - who writes beautifully on the need for excess, for pure senselessness, for pure "gifts". He builds on the theory of gift-economics, as a counter to capitalism. He pleads for excessive "wasting", excessive giving away, destroying material wealth for symbolic reasons (the socalled potlatch), and for "wasting one's time". The gift is highly related to useless games, he thinks, and so he pleads for a kind of excess in enjoying the useless. It is what makes us profoundly human. No other species can purposfully indulge in pure excessive uselesness. This work may help you write your book.

    Bataille writes heavily against capitalism and the protestant ethic, which wants (according to him) to turn everything we do into a utilitarian, purposeful learning lesson. His writings about the excessive gift-logic in the games of ancient, decadent Byzantium are some of the finest in modern philosophy. In the end, Bataille thinks everything that makes life worth-wile, is excessive uselessness: above all, love, which is, for humans, not geared to reproduction, but to something beyond that. Love, laughter, giving, playing, sacrifice, even death are all signs of the excessive - and we're only human because we know these things. Without these, we'd be ordinary animals.
  • Mar 3 2011: Isnt it obvious
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    Mar 3 2011: A video game to me is a world with many in-worlds in itself. To explain, think of you driving a virtual car, with a lot of advancments, going somewhere around 150 MPH, and then you crash right into a wall. What happened? You crashed. What you have done to prevent the problem? Take evasive action. Was it unavoidable? Possibly. O.K. that's find and dandy for your virtual car, but what about your real car? same situation, but your car isn't pumped up to the point where you can go blazing down the road at 150 MPH, but your about to hit a wall, what do you do? You have what is called a "Pause Second", I call it, a moment in time where you brain switches from what happened to the virtual car to your real car and the body automatically moves to survive. You may get a few scratches here and there, along with a insane amount of money taken away, but your still alive.
    How video game apply to us, is that someone made up of 1s and 0s you used showed you what to do. I have come from a family that believes that video games are a waste of time, I say otherwise.
    To answer the question from the main post on the gamers side, is that they are who they are. You can tell them your favorite game that you played the whole time and gain from it and they won't even care one bit, which I think is pretty harsh, but it's just them. To hit the core of the question is the story, it's like watching a movie and playing at the same time but while at it, expecting something big to happen. That is another thing, the expect something to happen, either you make it happen or you don't, that is what the games have taught me. when non-gamers ask me "So what did you get out of the game?" The first couple of tries I was stunned, I just told them a story, what happened, and what I got in the game. Now latter on, I brush them off by ignoring them, and I share what I have learned freely, for example, Bioshock, it shows what happens when people grow too strong which leads to their utter destruction.
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    Mar 2 2011: Nice speech. Anyway I think we (gamers) have more "powers" than the ones you said. :)
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    Mar 2 2011: Interesting. Is it an addiction? What are the statistics for those who are game so much; is there a commonality such as an inability to moderate. Do these same people have the same "extremeness" when it comes to other actions and endeavors? Do they posses a greater focus. I think it is like a drug to some in that it lets them escape reality. If I had kids I would certainly be worried about it.
    • Mar 4 2011: We're all susceptible to addictive behavior; and gamers have the same addiction curve as any other segment of society. Some are not addicted at all, some are habitual users whose lives function quite well, and a few cannot control themselves.

      People who are prone to extreme additive behavior will exhibit that tendency in many ways. The overall population of gamers has about the same level of addicts as any other socially acceptable activity such drinking, gambling, etc.
  • Mar 1 2011: Well, I must say I'm a bit of both. I play poker online and I enjoy it emencely. I find that the game provides a closed system of posibilities and I must compute my odds at every hand. I also must guage the nature of the other hands as well as the possible strategies that the other players are employing.

    It's a card game, not a video game so I don't know how that fits into your study, but one thing I know for sure is that what I learn playing poker has had direct application to life situations in general. For instance, guaging ones position in a negotiation and comparing it to certain classes of situation at the table has yeilded a number of fitting anaogies that prove very useful. You have to "know" when to hold and "know" when to fold.

    Games of all kinds provide us with metaphore and analogy to our real life problems, sometimes with solutions that would not otherwise be obvious without the game experience. How many times have we battled with someone on some issue and declared "Checkmate!" when we have them cornered? Or flipped a coin or gone "All in" on a venture? Games have served us well as tools of learning and mental exercize for centuries and centuries. Not all games are stimulating or challenging, Tic-tac-toe comes to mind, but most that we find engaging ARE engaging some aspect of our intellegence and testing it. We play to learn and learn to play.
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    Mar 1 2011: It's interesting to see there's not a lot of line-drawing in the dialogue below between video games and Parcheesi, Monopoly, and coin flipping. Games is games, is the message I get, and i think it's true. Granted, some of the newer games seem more engrossing.

    One metric of interest is what would the player be doing otherwise? If the choice is between a person spending a weekend sitting in front of a screen playing Worlds of Warcraft, and that same person sitting in a pickup towing a speedboat to the lake to spend that weekend roaring around in front of a 250hp Evinrude, my inner treehugger says "stay in Azeroth, dude! Slay those monsters!"
  • Feb 27 2011: the one question i would like to ask gamers is, how has gaming contributed to the childhood obesity epidemic in north america?
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      Feb 28 2011: Whereas video games do usually mean sitting in front of a computer or a console, I doubt that they are a decisive factor in childhood obesity.

      You don't get fat because you spend an hour or two playing games, you get fat because you don't exercise besides that, because you eat unhealthy food etc.

      Plus, the new trend in fitness games is actually fighting this problem. I know of at least two friends who don't exercise much otherwise, but who regularly play Wii Fit. It appears to be more fun to lose weight and gain points and achievements at the same time than to just lose weight. :D
      • Feb 28 2011: very good points Sabin,but i wonder how many young people are playing wii fit for 40 hours a week,one of the problems which has been brought up is when people are gaming they have easy access to food ie fridge etc,do you feel there is any rational in this argument?
    • Mar 2 2011: Terrible eating habits are probably a far bigger concern, playing video games doesn't cause a child to be obese. If the child is eating to much and eating the wrong types of food chances are they won't have the energy to do something physical.

      Video games contribute in a small way, but I still see parents in the grocery store buying cases of pop, potato chips, several bags of cookies, cereals that are more of a desert than a breakfast and then stopping at McDonald's on the way home.
    • Mar 4 2011: What Jeremy Ogram said. We are saturated with marketing to consume those empty calories.

      Not only that, there has been a parenting trend towards hyper-vigilance in the last few decades. Kids are kept indoors instead of being sent outside to play. They learn to be sedentary. I'm not advocating for careless parenting, but I feel sorry that kids don't have the same freedom to roam that I had.
  • Feb 27 2011: its what you said last year at TED....if the people involved really feel that they can make a difference, they will. How do we get our political leaders to realize that what they do in policy is little different than a game! is it based on more facts? No. Is it based on more altruistic behaviour? No. We are all living in a game! so how do we cooperate in "our" game to win?
  • Feb 25 2011: The game Melee is a part of life, just like anything you want as a part of your life, you have to sacrifice a part of your life to bring it in. Unless you do something today, you'll be exactly where you are today, tomorrow. Today, I bet a LOOOOOOOOOOOT of people had a lot of fun, got a lot better, had a lot of laughs and learned a lot...by playing video games. I bet a lot of people got a lot of that from a lot of things, and I bet a lot didn't. That's for you to decide.

    Most importantly, smile when you do anything. Games a just that after all, games. They're fun. If you say "Why don't gamers see life as the ultimate game?"
    Well, you could say that about anything, and in our community we sure do. I hope others will follow, not just the gaming world. We'll smile as we play this 'life' game us 'GAMERS' have heard so much about too. ;)

    Sorry for the MULTIPLE Massive POSTS

    It's kind of my trade mark on other forums to do multiple posts, why change? ;) hahahha

    Take care. Nice topic too Jane.
    Hopefully I don't get 'banned' for this 'spam' as I'm liking this TED stuff. It's a fun game. :)
  • Feb 25 2011: 2 people can have the same experience, for 1 it can be shrugged off like an everyday event, for the other it can be life changing and they will forever be better from it. If you’re doing something and not getting anything from it, it’s not doing anything for you. It can be said about exercising, reading, writing, music, or everything else, just like a video game. If you’re not into a game or video games in general, move on, but never shut anything out of your life or anyone else’s. That’s plain counter beneficial. Then again this is all simple logic and anyone can understand it, it's a given.

    Never stop changing, it’s the only thing that we shouldn’t change. Games will change, the way we play them will change, everything will and is. It just keeps getting better, and it gets better faster too.

    Expect ‘Video Games’ to only get better with everything else, specifically the ones made by people who have an interest in things beyond material profits or mass production and more spread by word of mouth and the input of the person picking it up. If we ever get that far by the time things ‘change too fast for us’

    In the meantime, I'll be playing this game I love, this game that has helped thousands upon thousands of young people around the globe and continues to do so and always will. Our community will continue to travel the world meeting new people and facing new challengers, we'll continue our community garden projects and random acts of planned kindness or 'scatter joy' events in doing our part to make the world a more amazing place.
    I'm a 'gamer' and I won the game of life a LOOOOOOOOOONG time ago. Gotta help everyone else along the way now.
  • Feb 25 2011: In the other sense, I’ve see SSBM, (and this is the case for most other games that don’t have as much quality including everything from arts to sports) it performs as a great source of ‘escape.’

    Everything has its purpose, and unfortunately, everything has its purpose. If it weren’t for active use of drugs for most addicts, they could potentially turn to something worse. It’s a temporary way of keeping themselves alive and in a certain state (which is hopefully completely reversible under proper conditions) rather than causing themselves or others more immediate or unrepairable harm.

    A friend in the community in Vancouver used the game to escape an addiction. He got caught in a circle and eventually turned to phoning people at all hours of the night saying he would need to play someone or he might do something bad. This kept him together long enough to get to another area and now he’s clean after years of torment. He’s been a member of this gaming community since the year arrived, he turned to the game and community for help.

    Often, people associate drugs as an escape and being a bad thing. Often drugs are the escape from something even more harmful and irreversible. Even 'common' things like television and alcohol. There is a use for it, it’s just a shame there is a use for it. If anyone says ‘escape’ is a bad thing, well they probably need to wake up to reality rather than escape it. If anything, life is an escape, a vacation. If you’re seasick, have a break. A video game is a (cheap/friendly/social/innocent/active/entertaining/relaxing/ANYTHING) way of doing that. Get with the times. hahah :P
  • Feb 25 2011: Gaming
    As a game, SSBM is the closest things I’ve ever been able to give as an analogy to life. Everything is directly related and anyone involved in the game is much easier to explain things around because it so closely compares.
    Take the simplest concepts...
    To improve is to become different towards what is better. To become different means to change. Therefore changing is the ONLY way ANYTHING can EVER get better. It’s a fact of life and we all know this, yet people almost always still don’t apply it to life despite understanding it so thoroughly, and perhaps only subconsciously. Yet to apply this to a direct comparison, such as a game, then it can be clearer. We often know things but can’t explain them, and if we can’t even explain them for ourselves then it can be difficult to understand even the things we already ‘know’ let alone apply them to our lives.

    On a side note, my band has started playing a small competitive round of Mario Kart before jam practices. It makes sense through analysis that it would help though, considering our keyboardist said he couldn’t even take the chance to scratch his leg or he’d lose in the Game, and the same thing applies in the middle of a Song on stage, focus and awareness to get through anything and do your best. No distractions allowed to truly distract from performance.
    About a year ago I noticed if I played hockey before a game called Dota, or Dota before hockey, I did much better than without the other as warm up. It brought me to a certain mental state of positioning and 5 on 5 team play that managed to be applicable and translate smoothly. It's amazing really.
  • Feb 25 2011: Locally - Two Novembers ago, I ‘re-met’ a group of people that I met through the game a year earlier. Today, they’re great friends and some of the greatest people I’ve ever known. What some people might find significant is probably things like how they have self-sustaining gardens and chickens in their own yards and shop only locally and organic, or how they work as care-aids and volunteer at food banks all the time and so on.

    To me, it’s the fact that they’re one of the many clusters of amazing people walking this earth, trying to find all of the others that want to make a difference. I’ve spent my life wandering through groups, looking for amazing people. This video game community is the largest collection of brilliant people I’ve been able to communicate with regularly and infinitely.

    One of the things I find seperates (my opinion) people who are ready to do something amazing from those who are still finding it, is the way that when they're having fun, they understand that they are and why, and they understand when others are and why they are. It's of huge significance and a strong reason why non-gamers need to understand gamers and non-anythingers need to understand why people do certain things. So in other words, good topic you got here. ;)

    I spend time in every community until I find every amazing person in it. Music as an example brought me under the wing of my favourite man, someone who has done more for everyone and everything with less than anyone than I’ve ever come to know. In the SSBM community, it’s a group of people like that ready to unleash beauty.
  • Feb 25 2011: It brought me friends in local cities to build a community here and I can literally travel to any place in the world and have a place to stay and GREAT people to hang out with while I’m there, so long as they get the message that I’m coming to visit their area in time. That’s something not many other communities could ever offer, and it happens literally EVERY day around the world.

    Reginally - My first time traveling for this game was a looooong road trip. It involved me, my brother, my teammate (and great friend who today lives far away but we still see each other often), a friend from Vancouver (I just met for the first time when he bussed to my city that day to be part of our carpool) and a friend from Australia (who housed my teammate for a couple months when he moved to Ausieland, and now he was visiting here) who all met through this game.

    We stayed at my cousins house, had a couple bday parties and I managed to drive around the foreign city to gather 17 people to have dinner together before it started. Only amazing laughs and good times from then and we’ve visited a few times back and forth since then. That first day of meeting everyone together and the immediate friendship bonding just because we have one common interest is incredible. You never know what else you share in interests until something brings people together. Video games can bring people together as much as anything.

    In Vancouver, there are some amazing people who do so much for the community and really work hard together to help each other improve and bring people from other areas and travel elsewhere to play each other. I met one of them through the forums and to this day we have dinners together and talk about everything. Specifically the relation between the game and life, I’ll get into that later.
  • Feb 25 2011: It’s been a decade since the game came out and the community has grown immeasurably every year in that time. There's everything from small local gatherings between a few friends to large festival-like tournaments featuring the best in the world with hundreds of people internationally and thousands in winnings on the line in a single weekend.

    There are over 5,000 active users on 1 of the communities sites, using ‘tags’ or ‘pin-names’ and only a small portion of them travel long distances or out-of-region for events. A community spread over continents and a good amount through forums would seem impersonal or unwelcoming in terms of getting to know people in a first name friendly way, but every single person in this community has met at least a dozen others in it or has been to something locally.

    Globally - I flew to NY with a friend recently and we stayed at someone’s house who we’d just met for the first time as we arrived at the airport. Of all the travelling I’ve done, I’ve yet to meet a single individual I wouldn’t count on to be there to support someone else in another persons travels. It was an amazing weekend and experience with hundreds of people from around the world, and these things happen every month to the point where everyone is connected through everyone. It’s all one giant community and we’re all in this together, just like humans on earth is one community, it’s just a shame the world beyond this game doesn’t see it that way more often. ;)

    A year earlier I drove 26 hours with a bunch of friends for a tournament to meet most of them for the first time. We all spent a week with people from all cultures and ways of life. I had to translate english to english between someone from Mexico and someone from Sweden both trying to speak english just so they could have a conversation together. Infinite experiences like that don’t come from playing the game itself, but the game is what brings us together.
  • Feb 25 2011: :)
    Someone went out of their way to show me this so I’ll comment. It’s long though... so I’m posting multiple times... sorry if this is bad or probably 'against the rules' but whatever. :P

    I won't bother too much with the common discussion, as I'm sure we've all heard from every side regarding Games themselves and what’s Good/Bad about them. Everyone has their thoughts at this point, so I won’t share mine in too much detail.
    Here's a different form of insight.

    Without too much sidetracking from the point...this is about a different side of video games...the side that applies to everything else too...
    Everyone should be glad to know Games are essentially accepted as a significant part of everyday life. Just as playing in ANY WAY should be.

    For the last 3 years I’ve played a game called Super Smash Bros Melee competitively (and always casually)
    I was going to keep ‘how it started’ because it’s the most amazing part, but I deleted it to make this shorter.

    SSBM is a platform/fighting/who knows what game. We’ve actually yet to figure out how to classify it in the gaming world as nothing compares even decently. It was released in 2001 for the Gamecube and it’s the only game I’ve ever taken even mildly seriously. There is no ‘online’ so this game was only playable between people on a face to face basis from the beginning. The community was literally built in ‘our own backyards’ by inviting others over and word of mouth through friends who played.

    The community is very good in every way. Only generous, kind, helpful and intelligent people can really become a core part of a community based on in person meeting. Such as anything, but even more when those playing the game together are the ONLY people involved in any form of organization, whether it’s funding or finding venues to play and housing people from around the world. This is a global community and it includes people from everywhere.
  • Feb 25 2011: Regarding Rock Band and all the talk about Guitar Hero.
    I’d recommend playing Rock Band as an ‘easy instant pleasure’ route towards learning the drums. I’ve played it once.
    Easy Mode = Failed miserably...
    Extreme Difficulty = Passed with 98%(ish) and the only reason I didn’t get that 2% was because I hit notes that were in the actual song but the game didn’t include them.

    98% accuracy is ‘extremely’ good for translating the music to the game. I’ve yet to play it since, and it’s much different for other instruments, but percussion is something everyone involved in music will learn inevitably... as well as everyone could use a little more rhythm... It doesn’t help much on technique, but that will come naturally or with a bit of looking into.

  • Feb 23 2011: Yes, games can be more worth it. That's why this former foreign policy editor has teamed with award-winning games developers to put GiG -- Global Innovation Game -- on Facebook. It plays as an idea market for the world's challenges. Still embryonic but growing and a great place for TED conversationalists to engage on topics from politics to the environment to corruption.Escapist games are great but we want to use fun and energizing game play as the vehicle for building communities of interest and interaction across borders. We want to build social games that matter in the real world. This is the natural evolution of games -- a new mediumfor turning the virtual into the real.
  • Feb 22 2011: further thought, it's important that we don't forget to credit all the little benefits games give us.
    strategy games are a design lesson - you build too far from resources you're going to spend too much time on transport. RPGs are a lesson in morality - you wrong the king and he won't help you when you need it, and well-spoken NPCs also provide valuable speech lessons. space sims will aid spatial awareness development and motor skills, as do shoot-em-ups (have a personal experience, a new shooter came out at the arcade a couple years ago and within a week i was hitting the lines much more easily at tennis).
  • Feb 21 2011: Jane,
    I was very energized by hearing you speak on NPR about your book and work with games. I am currently working with veterans and their families coming back from war, on active duty or veterans of former wars.The high rate of suicide and the costs to families, especially care taker spouses and children has gotten every mental health professionals attention. The national stigma against mental health services is much greater in the military. I was wondering if there was some way to have a "game" with returning "warriors" where lots of options are present (e.g. buying guns, alcohol); getting and losing jobs.....going for help for PTSD and not.....Just playing with ideas of ways to get the attention of those of would NEVER consider mental health services for themselves. Has this been done to your knowledge? Thanks for any feedback. Peg Grandison
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      Mar 2 2011: There is one game, called Commandos. It is not exactly what you want, but it is a very nice strategical game and you don't really need to have very good gaming skills to play it.
  • Feb 21 2011: I swear my husband has been trying to convince me of this for years - although he said he was practising for an evenutal alien invasion :-)

    I am very curious to see how gamers could make the leap from what is often an escape from the real world, to facing real world problems and challengs head on through game play.

    Although I was a gamer in my pre-mom days now I have no time to do so and would qualify myself as more of a non-gamer. I would love a current gamer to explain to me if it is truly an escape.

    Does playing in an online world make you feel more or less connected to the real world?
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      Mar 2 2011: I was a gamer and I can tell you that it is an escape to play games. It is challenging, it is relaxing, you can socialize etc.. What is wrong about it, is that you become addicted and most of the gamers can't stop playing, and they don't want to stop either. So it is your choice actually if you are connected or not to the real world.

      Anyway I think nobody can explain a non-gamer who you fill like, so you should start playing.
      The problem is that games now-days are to complex for a begging to start and play and fell the pleasure of it immediately. So you can't just play World of Warcraft if you don't know how to use the keyboard, you don't know the spells, you don't know the basic skills, I bet you don't even know what XP, AP, MP means and what are they used for.

      So that's why if you really want to give it a shoot you should start easy games that suits you.
      Strategy games, Logical Games, Adventure Games, there are s many games right now that it is impossible not to find one that you like. Tell me what you would like to play and I can recommend you a game.
    • Mar 4 2011: Playing online makes me feel more connected...I learn constantly, and interact with people who have similar interests to mine, which I do not find locally.

      Also, I am past the age of parenting, and all my nieces and nephews are grown, but many of my online friends are parents, and depending on their childrens' ages, may or may not have the kids online with them, too.

      I can truly say some of the most joyful moments I've had recently have been playing with kids too young to be 'chatting' and interacting with me only through our characters in the virtual world. Kind of like getting down on the floor to play 'dolls' with them =)

      As a mom, if you don't have time to play, how do you recharge your happiness batteries? I'm only saying this because your statement makes it sound like you are too busy working--but of course there are many ways to play! Online gaming just happens to be the current one.
  • Feb 21 2011: I believe that more and more people today want to live in a world without boundaries. When it comes to games especially the violent ones. These games can really have an effect on how a person sees the world. We as people need to quit our fascination with violence. it is not just games that are the problem it is society as a whole. We are a broken people who need saving. We will save ourselves when each person says no to violence and begin to love all people sacrificially like
    Christ. Think about this if every person in the united states just sacrificed one ice cream cone at McDonald's on one day the money would be enough to bring clean water and proper sewage to all the third world countries that is how much money we have. Games have can have an impact for good or bad. The future of gaming should be showing real world problems and the goal should be finding viable answers.
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    Feb 21 2011: As a sometime gamer, but more of an observer, I think there is an opportunity to disaggregate "gaming" and talk about it's value (benefits-cost) at a more specific level. Discussing it at the aggregate level seems to quickly devolve into a good/bad polarization, often without articulating the assumptions that lead people to their particular conclusion. Jane's question asks us to look at gaming more deeply and perhaps we should follow that path.

    Some of the questions that seem "answerable' through research might include:
    Does it teach pattern recognition? What impact does it have on user experience progress? Does it enable scaled experience with group problem-solving and what is the impact of doing so? Does it reduce exercise or just replace TV? Does it desensitize people to violence? Does it create richer social ties or reduce them? Etc.....

    Is there a way to categorize these questions into value categories (e.g. skill development, social development, etc) so that we can explore both the costs and benefits?

    Should we attempt to create a 'scorecard' that encompasses these questions (and many more, of course) - not so much so that we can get to an 'answer', but so that we can have a rational conversation with articulated mental models and assumptions that can be challenged, defended, refined and maybe even, agreed to?
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    Feb 20 2011: As a gamer I wish people would appreciate the level of art and complexity that goes into a game. A good game must have striking visuals, as well as a compelling stories and/or characters, all while having novel and entertaining gameplay. Even for what most consider a straightforward shooter like Halo, there is a wealth of mythos and character design that doesn't actually make it into the game.

    But above all I would like people to recognize how this a new medium to tell a story, in a way previously impossible. In a game like Half Life 2 or Bioshock, the main characters never even say a word. Instead the player becomes the protagonist, and every level shapes your image of the character's wants and desires. Ultimately instead of reading about a plot detail or watching it in a movie, you are experiencing the plot first hand. Games like Mass Effect take this idea so far that your choices influence the arc of the story, making it exceedingly personal. It took a long time for photography, or movies to be recognized as an art form. But it is my hope that eventually people will recognize games as well.

    Lastly, people have to understand that there are a lot of different types of video games, and each type brings something different. Even games with little to no story can be valuable. Real Time Strategy games like Starcraft 2 tax your decision making speed and multitasking abilities to the max. Whereas a puzzle game like Portal makes you think deliberately before you act. To answer 'What I get out of games?' I would reply it depends what I want to get out of them. There are people who play World of Warcraft to escape from reality, but there are also people who play in an intensely social manner. Personally I enjoy a good story and I enjoy getting good at something, so games that meet those needs I like to play.
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    Feb 20 2011: Use the games to educate people.
  • Feb 20 2011: Simply, I think the new "Kinect" by Microsoft for xBox is a start in the right direction. It is an active game that puts you in the game, and comes with a host of workout and exercise-type games. No more sitting on the couch with this one. The games available need to mature, but I can see this helping with our sedate lifestyles here in the US, that gaming traditionally has thwarted.
  • Feb 20 2011: Is there anyone out there except me who finds games boring and "work" fun? Real satisfaction, I find, derives from building value long term that contributes significantly to enhancing people's lives -- not people in the abstract, but people I know, can see, talk to, care about. That's what I do for what people call work. I do occasionally take a few minute game break, mostly to shift my concentration from longer term to shorter term, and it's OK, but not in any sense fun. The question for me for people who spend lots of time gaming, on facebook, etc., is, why? Have you tried all the other ways of testing your mind and body, of love and friendship, and have they failed for you? Or is that exactly what you're avoiding?
    • Feb 20 2011: Not everyone's work provides the "fun" you describe. For some, work is an utter pain. For others there is little to no work. I worry that the assumption can become that because a person is a gamer they are broken. But consider, as the OP has positioned, that it is our reality that is broken.

      I would be interested to here more about what it is you do for "work". I get the sense that skills learned by someone gaming in a dark basement could be utilized in your "work".

      Anyway, consider the author/OP's original premise.
  • Feb 20 2011: Video games... their production, their consumption are ultimately another form of human expression.

    What brings more value to one form of human expression than another? Perhaps in real human terms, when you step outside the box of the traditional thinking (social status, monetary pursuit, etc), what defines the worth of pursuit and expression is how it interacts with our brains.

    When thought of that way, there are many games that offer a high degree of complexity and variety, social bonding, etc.

    In the modern world, video games are seen frequently as a negative thing, because quite often they don't produce obvious benefits for what is traditionally seen as productive. But productive in terms of what? Productive in terms of our current material driven paradigm, in which social worth and standing is derived in large part through the control and consumption of limited resources? In a world where we achieve post materialism; the world that ideally we strive for, what becomes of worth then? Would 'video games' in such a world become a primary expression of human achievement?

    These things that combine layers of design, visual, music, story telling, wrapped up into cohesive packages, engaging its users in cognitively complex and intuitively rewarding tasks... I could certainly think of far worse things for people to do. And when I shed the frame of reference of the world that we've accustomed to and think about the activities that really provide positive welfare for people and their minds, I can think of few better things to do (not that I'd suggest it to the exclusion of a wide variety of complex and engaging activities... more that I think it is a potent method of providing a complex and wide variety of engaging activities).
  • Feb 20 2011: All in all nothing can replace the real deal. Virtual football can not replace the same feeling the same thrill as actually being on the field and playing with friends and against a rival team. Gaming is fun no doubt in that and like must technology i'll say its purpose is truly that of emergency boredom. By that I mean if the weather is unfavorable outside, if there's absolutely nothing else to do, or if i want to train for an important or dangerous event (I.E. War, Surgery) than i'll play video games. Its another unnecessary luxury many of us have fallen victim to and in doing so, for the most part have lost physical contact with the outside world. We must learn to use our tools for us not against us, not let it deprive us from our true nature, and let us move about and live.
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    Feb 20 2011: As a GAMER I'd like to see games become more a part of our education system. I know this may sound strange, but I feel quite sure that games, if used properly, can teach us many things, however not only about the future, as Mrs. McGonigal mentions in her talk, but also about the past.

    Without wanting to attack the Romanian education system, many things that I learned about the Middle Ages came from playing Age of Empires II. Information about battles, about important persons, about military campaigns simply stuck to me a lot better if I was accompanying Joan of Arc or William Wallace in-game rather than learning this from a book only to probably forget it later.
    I have also never been to Venice or Florence in real life, but I can now appreciate their beauty by having gone their as Ezio Auditore in Assassins Creed II.
    And I have also never had the chance to be in a leading position, but I've learned quite a thing or two through playing Settlers, Cossacks, Civilization or the good old Railroad Tycoon.

    Of course games cannot fully replicate challenges you face in real life and of course historical data is not always 100% accurate, but that's also because the games weren't specially designed for education.

    I think kids would learn a lot more if at the end of the history class the teacher would say "and for more information you can play the xyz campaign" instead of "for next class read pages 30 to 40".
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    Feb 19 2011: How do we know when we are playing a good game?

    I think that we could consider gaming as a being in a state of mind in which people feel (more or less consciously) that they are experimenting something within a relatively "safe" or "more controllable" sandbox, an activity that one can stop at any moment with little or no consequence.

    Not that everybody would define playing, for instance, in a soccer match as "experimenting running behind a ball", but what separates pro soccer player from amateurs is also the fact that, in pro soccer, deciding to stop playing a match may have important consequences (financial, professional etc), while quitting an amateur match possibily has, at worst, the effect of not being called when the next match is played.

    So, for a pro soccer player, maybe playing a "good game" means being able to score a goal, or to show active participation, all the while maybe having some kind of anxiety about the outcome of the game, for part of the player's future may depend on the outcome of the game.

    Whereas, for an amateur soccer player, maybe playing a "good game" means just having a pleasurable memory of the experience, regardless of the outcomes.

    So being in a "game" or "play" state of mind, is what really defines an activity as a "game". Possibily, playing a videogame help setting a state of mind that what is being done is "not really real" or, in other words, that it is "just a game anyhow" ; that's a quite interesting property of videogames, understood as a tool that can be used for a wide range of purposes.

    For instance, in some cases playing a MMORPG could help some people overcome social anxieties, as much as they may provide an illusory self-inflicted shelter for others.

    In my personal experience, social games are the ones that yelded the better results (increased and improved social contacts), while shooters and simulators are a distraction that most of the times have appeared to be come potentially addictive.
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    Feb 19 2011: Humans are not machines. We need to relax and have fun. It is how we work.

    I would love to see game mechanics applied to education. I want to see people getting curious. A good way, from my experience, to achieve that is through games. Doesn't necessarily have to be video games.
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    Feb 18 2011: I have been playing computer games for more than 30 years. During that period I have also played card and board games. I play games because they are fun. I especially like multi-player games for the comradeship and social benefit. I believe it is part of human nature to play games.
    • Feb 18 2011: Not only that, all games teach. Learning and social bonding are the primary purposes of play.
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    Feb 18 2011: Being a "gamer" in one regard is a false identity though, even to the gamer who identifies himself he must apprehend his identity as nothing more than a reflection of himself because he can only concieve of the meaning of his own identity. As such then the "gamer" in question has constructed his identity from some particular experiences which provided incentives but were never a part of his essence. Thus the identity never existed prior to his experiences, but since he was responsible for the genesis and the values of his identity it brings to question whether his identity is authentic.
    Then a second question that follows in my opinion at least is, is a "gamer" who takes his identity seriously any different than the proud nationalist or the waiter or the soccer mom?
    • Feb 18 2011: Most people playing games today don't identify themselves as "gamers" any more than people who read define themselves as "readers". The people who are most in love with this form of entertainment, it's most devoted fans, self-identify as gamers. The rest of people playing Farmville on Facebook or inviting friends over to play Dance Central on the XBOX Kinect are just people playing games to have good times with friends.
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        Feb 18 2011: Yeah, I see gamer as just a convenient term to tell people let people know that you share in their interest, more or less I think it breaks down the barriers most people project in their social anxiety
    • Feb 18 2011: Based on your definition of an identity, there is no such thing as a real identity, at all. I mean, who is not responsible for the genesis and values of his or her identity in the sense that you mean it.

      On another note, I would have to disagree that a gamer is the responsible for the genesis and values of his identity. This seems to indicates that no one has contributed to a gamer's world. That is untrue, as the assumption would leave out all of the inventors, programmers, and other individuals who have been a part of the game industry throughout its history. There are many idealistic and realistic viewpoints from whcih we can look at a person's identity. I am adopting some form of a realistic viewpoint for this moment and stating that a gamer's (or anyone's) identity is not completely his own. Many societal factors are involved with every type of hobby. There is no such thing as a unique identity, nor is an identity false just because the experiences had to create this identity occurred in a virtual world.
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        Feb 18 2011: Of course others contribute to the genesis of his identity. Whether he is responsible for his identity or not goes into a deeper debate of whether individuals have agency or whether they are determined beings. But to focus particularly on identity I am gonna provide a few simple and hopefully clear examples of why I believe identity is nothing.

        This is the simplest example I can give and I hope it is also the clearest. If identity depends on these conditional particulars or experiences that we talked about would the person still be himself prior to these experiences. Well I would say yes, to say he was not himself is to neglect the very history that you mentioned, the history that provided all the causal events which led to the genesis of his identity(be it his doing or his environment). But if we agree that his identity persists over time then we must agree that Jim the gamer is also Jim the toddler, that would make him both a gamer and not gamer which is a contradiction. Then we must assume that Jim's identity changes with time. Jim the toddler is not Jim the gamer. But here we are falling into the absurd notion that his early memories and life experiences were not his.

        Finally identity is brought into existence by positing particular events as being signifciant and nihilating others which could have just as much bearing on identity. Jim the gamer could easily be Jim the toilet user. Thus identity becomes more of an attribute(which is also subject to change).
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  • Feb 17 2011: As a gamer, there are two core psychological traits that gaming can help cultivate: frustration tolerance and delayed gratification. League of Legends, with its forced cooperative/competitive gameplay (often times with teammates who do not share a common language is great at cultivating frustration tolerance.

    Games that have extended reward cycles can help players attain the ability to delay gratification. In World of Warcraft, for example, the last few levels of the various professions are painstakingly slow to attain (taking days if not weeks), typically are very expensive in terms of in-game currency, and offer little play benefit while slogging through them. However, the payoff for the delayed gratification is "epic" gear that provides a significant in-game advantage.

    So, to non-gamers, there are social cognitive benefits, depending on the types of games that you play.
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    • Feb 18 2011: How do you feel about playing Charades face to face in real life?
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    Feb 17 2011: Hello Mrs. McGonigal,

    Thank you for opening this discussion.

    I have some suggestions with regards to the first question. Although my suggestions are very general.

    The first idea that came to my head when I read the question was a possible objective measure for assessing the usefulness of a game. When it comes to the real world however an objective measurement to test what is most important to humans, prosperity and survival for instance, is very difficult to come across.

    But lately I've been, reading Peter Kropotkin's Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution and I recommend it as good book that objectively describes some strategies which different animals and humans have used to collectively benefit in survival throughout evolution. Although for animals a lot of these collective habits are instinctual they are suprisingly sophisticated and rational. A mouse for instance can economize based on the frequency and availability of food eventhough the mouse is purely acting on instinct.

    Games designed for players to rationally utilize certain evolutionary beneficial behaviors might be a start for what we can call a distinction between useful games or non useful games. But this idea is a major generalization of course and it's purely limited to what we know of past communities(of animals and humans) and is in no way related to new challenges that face us in a ever changing global society. It's a start though.

    For the second question, I occasionally play games but for the most part I am a non-gamer. As a non-gamer I would like to ask gamers, why limit your life to only one experience, one environment and way of life. Why label yourself in a social cliche when humans have the great creative potential to be innovators and aspire to a diverse life?
  • Feb 17 2011: Make the games have a useful offline component in disguise.
  • Feb 17 2011: I disagree with the "Gameplay may not contribute to the Gross Domestic Product" part of the argument. Like any consumed product playing games keeps a very large industry alive. Gaming industry does not only involve companies that creates the games but also, the hardware they are played on such as Wii, PS, Nintendo, and also hardware components such as graphic cards (NVIDIA, ATI) so game play actually contributes a lot to the GDP.

    I have played a few games in my life but I can't call my self a real "Gamer". What I remember from the games I played was the sense of achievement and progress were the two things that kept me going. The sense of achievement is there at the end of any challenge, but the progress part is really what makes a game addictive. Finding new items, running faster, jumping higher, getting stronger, moving quicker, any of these can be earned in a simple level-up. What is addictive about it is I think it is very difficult to see progress in real life and in some way games fulfill that need.

    Wouldn' t it be great if after two hours in the GYM we could run faster, jump higher, have a great body. It is very hard to see real improvement in a short time in real life, but in games you could be the strongest warrior or the most talented wizard in a very short amount of time.
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    Feb 17 2011: I want entertainment as a gamer. My work is way too serious most of the time. When I arrived home, I want to think about something else, completely, so I play games. It's creating a segregation of thoughts. It's helping me to manage my work/life stress level and keep it low.
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    Feb 17 2011: I play games to let my mind rest from thinking.

    I know what you're thinking, "what about the problem solving and communal aspects?"
    Honestly the problems that game makers come up with, are typically either extremely easy logistical problems, or extremely difficult hand-eye coordination problems. (think original mario bros.) Either way they usually don't demand as much mental effort as a game of chess.
    The communal aspects are negligible in most cases because typically I do my most intense "gaming binges" with strangers. In order to one-up my friends.

    Honestly I like the grind (maybe this makes me weird). If the company I work for gave me a little xp every time I installed a part correctly, and paid me a little more, or made my break a little longer every time I leveled up- look out. I'd never go home, until I maxed out.
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    Feb 17 2011: I believe that people can be lifted to be their better selves if they feel that "their" story is a positive one. If games can elevate the story of a people while having fun, we can help people see themselves in a positive light... an important aspect of enlightenment.
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    Feb 17 2011: As a Non-Gamer, although I did complete Urgent Evoke, I wonder when the positive aspects of game play translate into positive real outcomes.

    If having played games which have say built up problem solving resilience for instance, when do you go on to using it in real life?
    If you do use these new found skills or attitudes external to video games, do you get the same rush as successfully using them in a game?
  • Feb 17 2011: I agree with Kellee Santiago that it is hard to speak about "gaming" in general terms any more. I'll limit my comments to games with strong story components and/or player freedom. In my research I have found that these types of games are highly reflective. People project internal meaning onto the game objects and actions and see those projections coming back to them (reflecting) in a symbolic form that can be manipulated. Or in other other words we are interacting, not just with the game, but with our own psyche.

    So if a game lets us access something in ourselves that is meaningful, if it is a good tool to break through, understand, feel, strengthen, etc. something in our psyche (even unconsciously) then maybe we could say it was a "good game".

    But really I think the more important question is "are we good players?". Are we going to let in a new feeling or understanding about ourselves and bring it back to our lives and work on it? Or are we going to pack it away until quitting time when we can get a new fix of what we need from the game? The best game in the world may be worse for us than a poor game because it is so good at fulfilling a need. Why do the difficult work to deal with psychological issues that might be out of our comfort zone when we can just schedule in more game-time instead?

    So I think the game is part of it but we gamers have to do the work too and grow from our games when we can...
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    Feb 17 2011: Integrate video games into THE GAME such as ...http://www.urgentevoke.com/.....players get paid for time spent playing and extra economic gain for 'quality creative action' taken during THE GAME. OR education units earned for every level of educational pursuit.

    The freedom of learning new systems of action and the feeling of empowerment of independent play should be integrated with virtual and non virtual players alike. All learning from one another's ' PERCEIVED REAL WORLD' experiences.

    Currently, time spend playing virtual games has no real integration factors with reality and have no connection with being empowered in the' real world', expert for educational skills and talents learned during the play of that game... that may be of some use in future 'problem solving.' More and more INTEGRATION of one's multiple intelligences and the real world will increase empowerment, self confidence and a new positive addiction to changing the world to all things 'designing utopia.'

    I vision the future of everyone on the planet playing THE GAME ...the game of participating in the ultimate well being of oneself...of playing and becoming addicted to the pure love and joy and freedom of 'designing utopia.'
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    Feb 17 2011: What if the future of online video games modeled real world scenarios and provided experience for strategies towards creating a peaceful planet in environmental balance.

    I am currently exploring "Fate of the World" in beta currently, although not a networked game I invite all interested to go forth and create
  • Feb 17 2011: More and more, gaming is an immersive, social activity. Just because gamers are in front of a screen doesn't mean they're not interacting socially. Just because it's not F2F IRL, doesn't mean it's not real. At the same time, if someone spent 40 hours a week at a book club or bowling league, it'd be a bit much, too.
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    Feb 16 2011: I think there are so many interesting comments already but I wanted to focus on the original post for now.

    First, as someone who is a pretty active gamer (computer, tabletop, and board) I know how much I can enjoy games. Games have helped me develop cognitive skills as well as social skills. Games like Diplomacy (an amazingly underrated game) is fantastic for teaching strategy and social engineering and interaction skills. So there are plenty of times when playing a game and encouraging others to do so is a good thing.

    On the other hand I am a teacher and involved in local politics, so I definitely understand the need for civic engagement. However, there is recent research out by UoT that shows that there is a correlation between gaming and civic engagement. So perhaps it isn't that bad that gamers game after all. I think that non-gamers don't quite realize that while we may be "just playing a game" we are actively engaging our mind. No one faults someone who plays golf, or sports, or reads, or paints, and arguably gaming is developing more useful life skills than these other endeavors.

    It is easy to say that gamers should get off their couch and do something "real" like volunteer in a soup kitchen, or give time at the library, or be a big brother or sister, but the same could be said about many other people who do none of those things. At the same time, there is evidence that gamers are actually quite engaged. Gamers, and technophiles in general, make projects like Folding@home and other distributed computer networks tick. The contributions of gamers to charities like Desert Bus For Hope and Child's Play are overwhelming. I think we often are doing something "real" and like every hobby there are some who may take it too far, but I doubt that percentage is any higher in gaming than it is in say Nascar or pro-wrestling.
  • Feb 16 2011: I guess I'm an unusual case. I've been a gamer from a very young age and apart from some small incidents of social stigma I can only ever remember those around me being enthusiastic or understanding of my being a gamer. Here's a few games related highlights from my life:

    My fondest and clearest memories of being a very young child are of the games I played with my friends and kids from around the neighbourhood. My favourites were Hide and Seek and Bang bang you're dead :)

    My desire for the first computer I ever saw (a Vic 20) helped my parents teach me the value of saving and delayed gratification.

    The small town I grew up in, had an annual hockey (grass) event where most of the locals would stay indoors to avoid abuse and physical violence from the post game drunken players. I think I'd be hard pressed to find a community terrified of players from a LAN or RPG event.

    On a similar note I was tackled very hard playing rugby when I was 15 and too this day have problems with my neck as a result. I was hit by a car not paying attention as it sped out of a driveway while I was riding my bike and have had ankle and knee issues since.

    I met the first girl I ever had a crush on over the longest game of monopoly I ever played.

    My exposure to D&D at the age of 12 led me to join gaming groups at uni where I met most of the people who are my closest and dearest friends today. As a secondary effect my love of RPG's led to my love of reading; my house today is filled to overflowing with books. Reality is broken is one of them.

    My first console was an N64, purchased with first pay from my first full time job. I played hours and hours with my housemates, friends and the person who would become the love of my life - who I am still playing games with today.

    Today I am a UX Designer and I often present to my team on game design theory and what we can learn from it. I got them to play Roborally!

    In a lot of ways my life was shaped by games. They are not to be feared, please.
  • Feb 16 2011: The answer to your original question is pretty easy--we would be better off doing something "real" when it contributes more to our chance of succeeding at what we really care about. If you care only about your own enjoyment, fine, play games as much as you want. But if you truly care about other people, perhaps the time would be better spent contributing to the world in a more real sense.

    Many of the benefits of gaming (stronger social bonds, determination, entertainment) can be had (perhaps even more efficiently) via other, "real" means. Go volunteer. Talk to your friends in person. Go exercise with them. Read some books.

    Perhaps the one benefit of games is that they let us learn certain things that are difficult to learn in other ways (curiosity, the ability to explore different hypothetical situations, etc). Thus, it's probably not inherently bad that kids play so many games. However, if you're over 25 and still playing games for 4+ hours every day, perhaps you should re-evaluate what you really care about.

    (I've played a lot of games in my life, and only recently stopped. I wish I had realized early how much time I was wasting on them)
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      Feb 16 2011: An advantage of games over real life is that you can escape a frustrating game easily. Real people are 'sticky' (ask any Boy Scout troop leader or sales representative); they barge into one's life unscheduled -- sometimes when one is doing something more important -- and *demand* immediate attention (sometimes becoming very unpleasant!). Service to others can be extremely stressful! I find gaming a relatively sane antidote to real life while still engaging my attention. Baby-sitting real life drama queens is not something one should inflict on oneself except to support oneself financially!
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    Feb 16 2011: Hi all, I'm up in S.F. for the gaming and the brain conference which is organized to raise the questions about the relations of gaming, experience of learning and the neuroscience that is tracking the powerful effects digital gaming on the developing brain!

    My gut brain feeling: It's an exciting time for those of us in the neuroscience of "design thinking" world to investigate how we can best use gaming to encourage the developing brain! Educators/Scientists/PublicHealth specialist etc need our talent, our vision to move gaming and the brain into its next game 2.0 iteration!

    So glad this discussion is up at the moment.

    Doc Gee

    P.S. If anyone is interested in the way brain games in their early format have been shown to train athletes, the brain injured and children in strategic spatial thinking, let me know!

    (and find me at SXSW)

    Jane will you be there?
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    Feb 16 2011: The number of hours spent playing videogames would be worth it if these videogames are geared more towards educational purposes and benefits and more importantly in benefiting our youth who are addicted to these videogames. So Peter Molyneux's Milo is one example of this educational videogame
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      Feb 17 2011: Even "non-educational" games are education. Basic games, such as Sorry!, Chess, Checkers, and other games teach skills like counting, turn taking, strategy, social skills, cooperative play. Games like Scrabble teach spelling. Even games as simple as War or Go Fish teach skills like number sense and memorization respectively.

      I think our society is far too dismissive of the value of play as a social tool. While only tangentially related to electronic gaming I compare it to the reactions at schools to stifle play. Many schools don't allow kids to play tag anymore, why? Because children play too rough and someone eventually gets hurt. But when that happens the group self corrects, the child who shoved too hard is often shunned from the game if their actions were excessive and they learn to control themselves as a result. With minimal adult intervention children can become quite skilled at conflict resolution. A similar phenomenon exists in online gaming, someone who plays unfairly is ostracized from the online society until their behavior returns to acceptable social norms.

      I don't think that games need to be constructed with education in mind to be educational, games themselves and the act of play teaches crucial skill sets.
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    Feb 16 2011: having grown up with the old atari 2600, then the NES, then Super Nes, etc... i've spent my fair share of hours in front of the screen playing video games. in hindsight, the majority of video games (not all, because like you said–some are a complete waste of time) i played have all had some impact in how i think / perceive things in the world today. oddly enough, RPG games were the first to open my eyes to how the world works. sounds silly, but the idea of gaining experience and "leveling up" is pretty relevant to how real life works. sure, in a game you can use cheat codes to get ahead in the game, but likewise–you can cheat in real life to "get ahead"—but do you really get ahead? in the video game, there are few consequences (more today with online gaming though) but in real life, the consequences can be devastating.

    so videogames have proven to enrich my life, but i can only speak for myself. i know there are other's who have experienced similar benefits, be it hand eye coordination / reflexes / cognitive thinking / the art of story telling... whatever it is, there are pros and cons to video gaming.
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    Feb 16 2011: Gaming and Virtual Worlds are so popular because they are UNREGULATED by the political class. Have the cash for an additional Nuclear Power Plant? Go ahead and start construction. Want to design a new roller coaster? Start building -- No forms or permits to fill out and no need to grease the local Steel Workers Union.

    Games unleash the potential of the Human Mind without shackling it to Energy and Material -- two things that are currently tightly controlled by the rulers. And if the rulers get their way, they will soon be controlling Information as well.
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      Feb 17 2011: I partially agree with your analysis - though I'm not sure I quite agree with your views of world leaders and the political class. However, many games do have limits on creativity such as exploration or technology trees, such as in the Civilization games by Sid Meiers. In fact, some incredibly popular games have expansive rules systems that govern what you can do and when and are in some ways life simulators.

      Games always allow for creativity within the rules and parameters of the game. I think part of the problem might be that the rules and parameters of life are constantly in flux and are not created with stability and balance in mind. Then again, some games are intentionally unbalanced (such as the Dune Board Game) and they are still enjoyable.

      I agree that the freedom to create and do things outside of the realm of reasonable possibility in life is part of the attraction people have to games. But I also think it is the fact that games in many ways can be safe. Regardless of how much time I have put into my level 15 Ranger and how much I love the character and have developed a full a rich back story for him, he is still just a character. If he gets into a fight and dies I can either pretend it never happened or just roll up another character. On the other hand, if I spend months running for election for a political office and lose that loss is permanent. If I try to open a new business and it fails that has a substantial impact on my real life. It isn't that it is perhaps easier to open up a business in a simulation or game, but that at the end of the day it doesn't dramatically change my life.
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    Feb 16 2011: The distinction between 'game' and 'real life' is -- when you think about it -- spurious. There's a constant sub-text that when one is engaged in gaming one 'isn't doing anything useful'. (One could make the same point about eating out at a restaurant, phoning a brother or sister, or driving to a mall....). I hang out in Second Life and find a lot more going on there than in my living room! I also spend time (and have for a number of years) playing Spore and Civilzation3 Conquests, and again it's time at least as well spent as the time I spend reading a book a week of nonfiction. Frankly, when I was in sales (up until last year) I found the skills and juggling of variables in Civilization was a form of mental 'gymnastics' very similar to my 'day job'. Life is a strategic game, if you think about it, in which one picks goals, totes up resources, develops strategies, implements plans, copes with failures (and hopefully draws lessons from them), and finally arrives at some conclusion. Isn't real life all about the path rather than the endpoint (death, I might remind you). Ditto gaming. It's ultimately just as (no more/no less) meaningless as real life. One brings purpose into the game. It's not just sitting there waiting to be picked up and stuffed into one's backpack. Incidentally, a lot of crazy nonsense has been written about how games keep one from establishing relationships with other people. That's true of Civilization and Spore, but totally untrue of Second Life. And in virtual worlds, barring geographic distances, one's always free to set up a 'real world' meeting. Virtual worlds can be a place to be oneself, or simply a place to connect and then take it from there. It's up to the player. It's not up to the game!
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    Feb 16 2011: Ordered your book. Medard Gabel co-created the analog World Game with Buckminster Fuller, and then created the basic architecture for the digital EarthGame, which Earth Intelligence Network funded until the economic crash destroyed my for profit that was funding the non-profit. He is reluctant to reach out to you, I recommend you reach out to him. Step one is for the two of you to connect and join forces.

    Step two is to think through a strategic analytic model that will allow the game to connect dots to dots, dots to people, and people to people such that in one zip code, one county, one municipality, all citizens can be connected to all information all the time, and exercise PANARCHY. Data entry is always the challenge, Twitter and Facebook have solved that, GroupOn offers some aggregation possibilities, but no one, least of all Google, CISCO, IBM, and Microsoft, is actually willing to be serious about all information in all languages all the time (my books, monographs, and other writing all free online at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog.

    The primary challenge is the proprietary world and the obsession of government with secrecy. Open Everything is the foundation for your vision becoming effective. I completely agree with the combined visions of you, Clay Shirky, and so on. Am rapidly coming to the conclusion that TED could create a "business plan" for creating a prosperous world at peace, and that governments and corporations are speed bumps that we need to route around with a hybrid network that combines ideas, money, cognitive surplus, and your absolutely great "game" approach where we all play ourselves in real time on every issue across every boundary. Need a workshop. Please DO reach out to Medard.
  • Feb 16 2011: It's ambitious, it's creative, and it's got potential. However, my biggest concern about trying to sculpt or morph what is currently MMORPG's into a directed global effort serving a 'higher purpose' is that it lacks the spontaneity and mass-frenzy that you would get if such movements were allowed to ferment organically. You've basically become the digital dictator. Also, much of my gaming experience is rather detached and escapist in a sense, so to even associate the slightest dose of reality or the wider world in a transcending effort would totally defeat what gaming is about for me. It's kind of like sport. It involves people and immerses them into this new reality, forgetting their miseries and grievances in real life. We've seen sport help maintain peace or even disrupt conflicts, maybe if we took all those radical fundamentalists around the world and immersed them in a game, they would moderate themselves.

    Hence, maybe gaming is not that tool you are looking for, maybe social networking is your answer, because at least there my name is my name and not pker99qq. And these tools we have seen have come into effect in the recent Egypt Revolution. But then again, Social Networking and Gaming, and Sport, are just tools - the real driving force for change is, and always has been pure human emotion. How do you harness that???
  • Feb 16 2011: I've been a long time gamer. I do believe they play important roles. Individually they can play roles in our development as people, in our enjoyment and hence well being. But they also have an important social function - and I don't mean in terms of multiplayer or social gaming - I mean in storytelling and metaphor. We've lost many such traditions of the past and gaming, and the involvement a participant has in a game, helps continue those traditions using a new and modern medium.

    Maybe I'm thinking far too deep. Let's face it, they're bloody good fun :)

    Now where's my iPad and Minotaur Rescue... ;)
  • Feb 16 2011: i both like and dislike this question.
    I dont care if non-gamers don't understand why i play the game - i dont understand why they watch' jersy shore' or 'real housewives', do line dancing or sychronized swimming, like reeses cups or sheeps brains - i like playing games; they are distracting and challenging at the same time, and while i may never be good at them i enjoy the small wins i get.
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    Feb 16 2011: Nowadays, video gaming are a kind of virtual drug. Think about this:
    1. You can do things that you never do in real life or in your "normal" condition.
    2. Makes you very excited when you hears about a better "version".
    3. Makes you very depressed when you are prevented from playing.

    Differently, traditional role playing games and several board games allow similar benefits, that is the part of results on research about video games, but without the side effects.

    Similar to other drugs, there are political and economic interests behind the investments to keep us playing. This is not a conspiracy. This is just the result of the economy system.

    For a RPG session you need a few people, a dice and lot of imagination. For a video game session you need a console, a DVD, a huge TV, a great sound system and a lot of games acessories.
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    Feb 15 2011: "So: How do we know when we're playing a good game -- and when would we be better off doing something "real"?"

    When is a game a good game? Whenever the game has given you any of the mentioned positive emotions or social relationships of course ^_^ .

    Personally, I think learning can only come after that is established. Anything less that's supposed to be "educational" is actually "education is disguise" which doesn't connect with gamers, and those that don't even claim to be educational while still don't giving you the emotions and/or social interaction are a pure waste of time.

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

    Violence in a virtual world doesn't map to violence in the real world. While you can argue many recent violent crimes in the real world resemble video game reenactments, many of those crimes would've happened anyway. The game may have provided the criminal with the "how", but no game provides the "why" for such acts. To suggest that an anti-social gamer is equal to a psychopath is as insane as equating a non-radical religion (be it Muslims or Atheists) to a "terrorist breeder" - while there may be instances where this is true, it's not true for the whole medium.
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    Feb 15 2011: Jane, I love your work!

    My question, how can games teach us real-world survival skills? Both in every-day contexts as well as once in a life-time natural or geo-political situations?
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    Feb 15 2011: II discovered that I'm addicted with games, that's why I stopped playing them (though it was very difficult)God gave me time to live a real life and to do something worthwhilIe, to achieve my real life's purposes. I stopped playing and now I feel myself better physically and mentally. And I live without feeling of guilt that I'm doing something wrong. But I'm quite tolerant to gamers. My boyfriend is gamer and he says that games help him to relax and calm down after hard day at work. I approve it because I think that a man should have an outlet for his negative feelings. But for me - best kind of games are educational games, because when you're playing them, you're not spending your time, you're investing it in education and develop your cognitive skills such as memory, attention, or speech. That's why I'd like to take different quizzes or educational courses that have elements of games into them. I wish that there were more such kind of courses, not only for children but for adults too. I think that new knowledge will help to give birth to new ideas.
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      Feb 15 2011: Interesting perspective Anna. The biggest reason I don't play games either is simply because my time is so constrained, and every time I play I feel I am not making progress towards completing something of value. However, I still respect gamers a good amount: their community, their leadership, their enthusiasm, and the joy they find in the game. Don't get me wrong, some games are simply for leisure and some require massive amounts of vulgar language online, but others hold strong value in their quality of writing, storytelling, and "relaxing" value they bring to the gamer. That was one of the few reasons I played games a while back: for the quality of the story and the complexity of characters.
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    Feb 15 2011: I love games. Actually, I tried to course my life to end up into the game industry. I still get to play a lot, and I still enjoy it... but sometimes is really hard to explain to others your experiences about gaming in general. I would like non-gamers to know more than everything that there are LOTS of games, more than the ones that made them decide at some point in their lives that games are boring, violent, hard, complex, ugly or just plain uninteresting... I completely confident that if you individually guide non-gamers into the experience, they will find something they like and enjoy. So that's it, be patient with your non-gamer friends and family, and if you have the time, think about their lives experiences and point them in the right direction.
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    Feb 15 2011: As a gamer, I find myself often referencing games as educational experiences for anything we can come up with - I talk to groups about sustainability and research questions, and one of the biggest ones I have for people is what games we can build to get people to know how to program robots or understand energy systems. When they scoff at the idea of learning from games, I generally respond either that A) I grew up playing educational games, and learned piles from them (my children will grow up with Logical Journey of the Zoombinis if I can help it), or I tell them that I've learned piles from World of Warcraft (which elicits bigger scoffs). It's true though - I learned a pile about leading groups of people, and teaching people that aren't necessarily as good as they could be, or discipline, or when to step up and help lead (even in little pieces). It's certainly possible to play games (particularly MMOs) to the detriment of real life (so far), but it's also possible to gain a lot of real leadership skills in the game, and an appreciation for how to deal with jerks. I wish people would get that about games, particularly social ones.