TED Conversations

Jane McGonigal

Game Designer + Inventor, Institute for the Future


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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  • Feb 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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