Jane McGonigal
1,253,474 views • 7:18

Today I am going to teach you how to play my favorite game: massively multiplayer thumb-wrestling. It's the only game in the world that I know of that allows you, the player, the opportunity to experience 10 positive emotions in 60 seconds or less. This is true, so if you play this game with me today for just one single minute, you will get to feel joy, relief, love, surprise, pride, curiosity, excitement, awe and wonder, contentment, and creativity, all in the span of one minute.

So this sounds pretty good, right? Now you're willing to play. In order to teach you this game, I'm going to need some volunteers to come up onstage really quickly, and we're going to do a little hands-on demo. While they're coming up, I should let you know, this game was invented 10 years ago by an artists' collective in Austria named Monochrom. So thank you, Monochrom. Okay, so most people are familiar with traditional, two-person thumb-wrestling. Sunni, let's just remind them. One, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war, and we wrestle, and of course Sunni beats me because she's the best.

Now the first thing about massively multiplayer thumb-wrestling, we're the gamer generation. There are a billion gamers on the planet now, so we need more of a challenge. So the first thing we need is more thumbs. So Eric, come on over. So we could get three thumbs together, and Peter could join us. We could even have four thumbs together, and the way you win is you're the first person to pin someone else's thumb. This is really important. You can't, like, wait while they fight it out and then swoop in at the last minute. That is not how you win. Ah, who did that? Eric you did that. So Eric would have won. He was the first person to pin my thumb. Okay, so that's the first rule, and we can see that three or four is kind of the typical number of thumbs in a node, but if you feel ambitious, you don't have to hold back. We can really go for it. So you can see up here. Now the only other rule you need to remember is, gamer generation, we like a challenge. I happen to notice you all have some thumbs you're not using. So I think we should kind of get some more involved. And if we had just four people, we would do it just like this, and we would try and wrestle both thumbs at the same time. Perfect.

Now, if we had more people in the room, instead of just wrestling in a closed node, we might reach out and try and grab some other people. And in fact, that's what we're going to do right now. We're going to try and get all, something like, I don't know, 1,500 thumbs in this room connected in a single node. And we have to connect both levels, so if you're up there, you're going to be reaching down and reaching up.

Now — (Laughter) — before we get started — This is great. You're excited to play. — before we get started, can I have the slides back up here really quick, because if you get good at this game, I want you to know there are some advanced levels. So this is the kind of simple level, right? But there are advanced configurations. This is called the Death Star Configuration. Any Star Wars fans? And this one's called the Möbius Strip. Any science geeks, you get that one. This is the hardest level. This is the extreme.

So we'll stick with the normal one for now, and I'm going to give you 30 seconds, every thumb into the node, connect the upper and the lower levels, you guys go on down there. Thirty seconds. Into the network. Make the node.

Stand up! It's easier if you stand up. Everybody, up up up up up! Stand up, my friends. All right. Don't start wrestling yet. If you have a free thumb, wave it around, make sure it gets connected. Okay. We need to do a last-minute thumb check. If you have a free thumb, wave it around to make sure. Grab that thumb! Reach behind you. There you go. Any other thumbs? Okay, on the count of three, you're going to go. Try to keep track. Grab, grab, grab it. Okay? One, two, three, go!


Did you win? You got it? You got it? Excellent! (Applause) Well done. Thank you. Thank you very much.

All right. While you are basking in the glow of having won your first massively multiplayer thumb-wrestling game, let's do a quick recap on the positive emotions. So curiosity. I said "massively multiplayer thumb-wrestling." You were like, "What the hell is she talking about?" So I provoked a little curiosity. Creativity: it took creativity to solve the problem of getting all the thumbs into the node. I'm reaching around and I'm reaching up. So you used creativity. That was great. How about surprise? The actual feeling of trying to wrestle two thumbs at once is pretty surprising. You heard that sound go up in the room. We had excitement. As you started to wrestle, maybe you're starting to win or this person's, like, really into it, so you kind of get the excitement going. We have relief. You got to stand up. You've been sitting for awhile, so the physical relief, getting to shake it out. We had joy. You were laughing, smiling. Look at your faces. This room is full of joy. We had some contentment. I didn't see anybody sending text messages or checking their email while we were playing, so you were totally content to be playing. The most important three emotions, awe and wonder, we had everybody connected physically for a minute. When was the last time you were at TED and you got to connect physically with every single person in the room? And it's truly awesome and wondrous. And speaking of physical connection, you guys know I love the hormone oxytocin, you release oxytocin, you feel bonded to everyone in the room. You guys know that the best way to release oxytocin quickly is to hold someone else's hand for at least six seconds. You guys were all holding hands for way more than six seconds, so we are all now biochemically primed to love each other. That is great.

And the last emotion of pride. How many people are like me. Just admit it. You lost both your thumbs. It just didn't work out for you. That's okay, because you learned a new skill today. You learned, from scratch, a game you never knew before. Now you know how to play it. You can teach other people. So congratulations. How many of you won just won thumb? All right. I have very good news for you. According to the official rules of massively multiplayer thumb-wrestling, this makes you a grandmaster of the game. Because there aren't that many people who know how to play, we have to kind of accelerate the program more than a game like chess. So congratulations, grandmasters. Win one thumb once, you will become a grandmaster. Did anybody win both their thumbs? Yes. Awesome. Okay. Get ready to update your Twitter or Facebook status. You guys, according to the rules, are legendary grandmasters, so congratulations. I will just leave you with this tip, if you want to play again. The best way to become a legendary grandmaster, you've got your two nodes going on. Pick off the one that looks easiest. They're not paying attention. They look kind of weak. Focus on that one and do something crazy with this arm. As soon as you win, suddenly stop. Everybody is thrown off. You go in for the kill. That's how you become a legendary grandmaster of massively multiplayer thumb-wrestling. Thank you for letting me teach you my favorite game. Wooo! (Applause) Thank you. (Applause)