Can Video Games Change the World?
6.8.10 | For a fun, fantastical response to that question, check out the short film “Pixels” by Patrick Jean (via edu.blogs.com). It’s both a 8-bit throwback and a look forward to a digital future. And it’s about as cool as it gets.
For a serious, mind-blowing response to that question, though, check out game designer Jane McGonigal‘s recent TED talk in which she argues that we must harness the unprecedented power of video game playing to “solve problems like hunger, poverty, climate change, global conflict and obesity.”
And she isn’t kidding. McGonigal believes, borrowing a bit from Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers,” that “virtuouso” video game players (those who have played at least 10,000 hours of gaming by the time they are 21 years old) have acquired a unique set of skills that makes them the perfect engineers of a utopian future:
* Urgent optimism (they possess “the desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that we have reasonable hope of success”)
* Social fabric (they are experts at “weaving a tight social fabric,” building bonds, trust and cooperation)
* Blissful productivity (they are happiest doing hard, meaningful work)
* Epic meaning (they are able to engage in and build compelling stories)
As a result, says McGonigal, they have become “super-empowered hopeful individuals” who “believe that they are individually capable of changing the world. The only problem is they believe that in terms of changing the virtual world, not the real world.”
McGonigal’s research and game design work has focused on bridging that gap. Working for the Institute for the Future, she has helped created “World Without Oil” and “Superstruct”—two games through which gamers can envision and construct a new, more sustainable world. Her book, “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Happy and How They Can Help Us Change the World,” will be published by Penguin Press in January 2011.
Her latest project is “Evoke”—a game that asks players to combine their online gameplay with real-world actions.
Life is a game, they say. And that might just save us.
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