TED Conversations

Jane McGonigal

Game Designer + Inventor, Institute for the Future


This conversation is closed.

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?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • 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.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.