From the Exponentials Team live at C2 Montreal:
“The opposite of play isn't work. It’s depression.” Jane McGonigal set the tone of her speech on Day 1 of C2 Montreal’s conference with this famous quote by Brian Sutton-Smith, the dean of Play Students at the University of Pennsylvania, who used to make an argument in favor of gaming practices. With around 1 billion gamers on the planet, this subject matter is far from irrelevant. McGonigal is a veteran game designer, who has reimagined and redesigned the potential benefits of games. She aims to breach the boundary between games and reality, using games for societal benefit with issues like healthcare, education and the economy.
Her message for the day was clear: we need to change our perception of Candy Crush or World of Warcraft gamers and start seeing the energy and time spent as an opportunity.
The world of online gaming promotes collaboration, teamwork and often leadership. McGonigal re-enforced the back that it keeps the brain active, often forcing people to learn, problem solve and work with others. Gaming can be good and has endless potential to continue doing even more good for the society.
In 2014, Gallup released a study that showed 81% of American workers do not feel engaged in their work. This translates to a striking 3.1 trillion dollars in productivity costs to the American economy. To compliment this study, McGonigal shared the fact that nearly half of Americans do not feel like they have an impact on society. Gaming can address the lack of self-importance and self-fulfillment experienced among Western citizens along with making a better world.
She gave a series of examples of how games could allow its users to engage in something fun and have a direct impact on society. She explained a game concept in which the players would react to an incoming asteroid attack. The results from this could be used to understand and predict the population’s reaction should an event like this ever occur. If apocalypse style games aren’t for you, perhaps you could take a trip down to a New York Library and engage in a game that allows you to contribute to a book to "find the future". Although non-conventional, the social benefits of games can be used in a variety of ways, and not take away from the original purpose of games: to have fun.
The skeptics of the gaming world may be numerous, but with a seventh of the world playing games regularly, McGonical has one very large playing board to revolutionize the perception and impact of gaming on the modern world.