Thank you for taking your time to read this blog post about Jane McGonigal. In this post, information about Jane McGonigal will be discussed. These will include her beliefs and philosophy, her career, her games, and her future goals.
Her Beliefs and Philosophy
Jane McGonigal has a keen eye on fixing the world from crises and issues. However, she has a radical and flabbergasting approach to do so. She believes that videogames will become the next glue in piecing back together the world. The problems she wants to eradicate range from health concerns such as depression and obesity all the way to environmental issues such as water shortage and the oil crisis. To obtain this goal, she believes we must experience an epic win.
An epic win as defined by McGonigal is “an outcome that is so extraordinarily positive you had no idea it was even possible until you achieved it”(McGonigal, 2010). Players are more motivated in the virtual world than they are in the real world. Therefore it is easier for players to experience these thanks to their voluntary and motivated disposition to achieve a goal. McGonigal states that there is no unemployment in World of Warcraft. From the start, everyone has a specific role they need to play, and the players are easily accepted and trusted into reaching a goal. Through the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game, players converge together to solve quests, combat foes, and earn status in the game. And even to achieve that epic win.
End of Suffering, The Lydian Story
McGonigal not only focuses on videogames on itself, but also games in general and how they can end suffering. A really interesting anecdote that she made in her book, Reality is Broken: Why Games Makes Us Better and How They Can Change the World, is of an ancient civilization that ended suffering through games. In Lydia, thousand of years ago, a huge famine struck that affected the whole city. Atys, king of Lydia decided to help the people by ending the suffering through games. Using sheep knuckles as dices, they would play every other day. This lasted for nearly 18 years. The concept behind this is that the game did not solve the problem of famine, but gave “power in a powerless situation”(McGonigal, 2011, p. 6). It gave them an opportunity to enjoy life rather than live through a day of suffering.
Virtual vs. Reality
Unlike reality, videogames offer a much effective and responsive positive feedback system. Levelling up, earning new points, obtaining loot/treasure, progress bars, and so forth are key indicators of positive development. Videogames offer those in visuals in forms of graphs, bars, lines, and numbers. This does not occur as effectively in reality. Even though we accomplish a goal, sometimes there is no positive feedback we receive from others. This is one of the reasons why people are much happier while playing videogames.
Studies have shown that videogames have helped with chronically ill patients, by increasing their happiness and nearly eliminating the possibility to fall to depression. A study conducted by the University of Auckland and University of Otago suggest that videogames can reduce depression, anxiety, and self-worthlessness. In their study, they created a videogame called SPARX that helped participants combat monsters and challenges. In their randomized trials conducted in different medical centres, they saw that SPARX was as an effective treatment as cognitive behavioural therapy and antidepressants (Merry et al., 2012). This shows how gamifying certain real life issues can help cope patients with their emotional health. McGonigal herself underwent through an emotional tunnel of negativity that she overcame through a game she created.
Jane the Concussion Slayer/Super Better
“Jane the Concussion Slayer” was a game developed solely for McGonigal herself. After experiencing a concussion to the head, she could not fully heal that trauma and was left with physical and emotional ailments. These included headaches, nausea, memory loss, vertigo, and mental fog. In order for her symptoms to go away she had to rest. Therefore she wasn’t permitted read, write, email, work, drink alcohol or coffee and no exercise. Due to the restrictions she had and the condition she was in, suicide lingered in her mind. However, she refused to exit that path and therefore created a videogame.
This videogame named “Jane the Concussion Slayer” was developed for her to overcome her symptoms, and become a better self. Along with her twin sister, she was able to level up and combat her enemies. Her enemies were purposely linked to her symptoms, so defeating them meant defeating the symptom sin real life. Through, playing this game cooperatively with family and friends, she was able to heal herself up. In the end she created her own cure to her own problems. However, this did not end in a victory for herself.
Later finding out the potential of her game, she took the time to properly develop it to the public and a wider audience. She renamed it to “Super Better”, a game that will focus on accomplishing tasks to improve 4 key criteria. Your physical, mental, social, and emotional. In her TED Talk she demonstrated examples of what each resilience task through the participation of the audience. The purpose of the game is to tackle your physical, mental, social, and emotional status. If one properly follows each task, as mentioned in the TED talk, you could increase your lifespan by certain amount of years. Signing up is free and you only need to be older than 13 to participate. Click here for a tutorial and walkthrough of the game.
World Crises Simulation Games
Relating back to the idea of creating a better world; Jane McGonigal believes that video games will help solve worldly issues. She has demonstrated that the motivation put in videogames such as World of Warcraft can be put to good use. In the games she helped develop, she was able to receive positive outcomes.
Developed by McGonigal and her team, this game is a simulation game that forecasts the end of human civilization in 23 years. The objective of the game is overcome possible threats that arise in the game. It is up to the 8,000 participants to try and elongate the existence of humans through creative thinking. This game was live in 2008 and lasted for an 8 week period. In that 8 week period, McGonigal’s team was able to find, through the data and information of the players, 500 solutions. Solutions range from ideas such as 3-D printing, “gypsy” farming, disease localization, and many more ideas that potentially can ameliorate the world in real life.
Similarly to Superstruct, it’s a social media platform game that will teach participants on current or possible crises. On the website, they even included a comic to help attract more participants into the game. Click on the image below to be taken to the website for more information.
In a more recent TED Talk, McGonigal exposed a quirkier side to her passion for games. She updated the idea of thumb wrestling to a whole new level. Instead of having a one-on-one combat with the thumbs, how about increasing the number to 3 people simultaneously thumb wrestling. McGonigal presents the idea that you can take a simple game such as thumb wrestling and give it an extra punch. This includes by adding more players to your hand to participate. However, there is actual science to this. Shaking hands has been said to help increase the trust between the person you are shaking hands with. This is through the oxytocin released in the body while shaking hands. Oxytocin, is hormone produced by the body that builds better trust between partners. However, the reason why McGongigal presented this TED Talk was to show that a game can simply ignite 10 different emotions at the same time. Watch the TED Talk for more information.
Jane McGonigal has demonstrated that videogames are not things you play and waste time with, but tools to help yourself, and the world. They are becoming more and more pervasive and many people are joining this culture. Gamificaiton has been a major theme throughout her TED Talks. It’s the idea of taking real life scenarios and making a game out of it. It is also to end current suffering that are in areas that do not offer a luxurious life, such as the Lydians. Therefore, videogames will be an extraordinary tool in combatting issues, such as health problems, and world crises. Please check out my prezi podcast on Jane McGonigal here.
Big Think (2012, July 3). Gaming and Productivity [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkdzy9bWW3E
Big Think (2012, June 2). Jane McGonigal: Truths & Myths in Gaming [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJ7uaDlYVmo
McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York: Penguin Press.
Merry, S. N. (2012). The effectiveness of SPARX, a computerised self help intervention for adolescents seeking help for depression: randomised controlled non-inferiority trial.BMJ, 344(2598), 1-16. Retrieved from http://www.bmj.com/content/344/bmj.e2598
MrEronc (2012, July 14). SPARX Depression Video Game Trailer [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlvtX5K1PSs
Official Super Better (2011, October 22). SuperBetter Introductory Screencast [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8m9JmoOtYA
TED (2010, March). Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world | Video on TED.com [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world.html
TED (2012, July). Jane McGonigal: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life | Video on TED.com [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_the_game_that_can_give_you_10_extra_years_of_life.html
Whitwell, L. (2011, July 19). Gamers solve puzzle which stumped scientists for years and could hold key to curing AIDS. The Daily Mail. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2039012/AIDS-cure-Gamers-solve-puzzle-stumped-scientists-years.html?ito=feeds-newsxml