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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 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.

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