Day 97: Gaming can make a better world

Is three billion hours weekly spent in online game play a lot? How about following Jane McGonigal’s advice and increasing this to 21 billion hours weekly in order to combat world poverty, hunger, climate change, conflict and other humanitarian issues?
But we can’t do this in real life? Every day gamers play games such as, ‘World of Warcraft’ in an attempt to save online civilisations. McGonigal shows us a photograph of a gamer on the verge of an epic win. In a game scenario, there are immediately lots of characters willing to trust the player with a game saving mission. There’s no unemployment or sitting around wringing hands. Every player has a reason for being there and a belief that they can complete the task given. Contrast this with real life, when people can become overwhelmed and fear failure. So why are gamers better at games than in real life?
In a country such as the U.S., gamers have spent an average of 10,000 hours in play by the age of 21. Think about the 10,000 hours theory of success; s what are these people becoming good at? McGonigal lists four skills learnt by avid gamers.
1) Urgent optimism: this is the desire to act immediately couple with the belief that there’s a chance of success.
2) Social Fabric: there is a level of trust involved with playing games; research shows we like people better after we’ve played with them, regardless of the result.
3) Blissful Productivity: Many gamers will work extremely hard to achieve their task; the average World of Warcraft player spends 23 hours weekly on the game.
4) Epic Meaning: Gamers love to be attached to awe inspiring missions.
These four traits give us super- empowered individuals who believe they’re capable of saving the world. The only issue is, this world is virtual.
So how can we make the real world like the virtual world? McGonigal and her team have worked on designing games which encourage participants to work towards a better world. They piloted a game in which participants tried to survive without oil, making this so realistic that people took part in this adventure willingly. They discovered that most players kept up the habits they’d learnt in the game. They did the same with a game to imagine what would happen if the world were to end in 23 years, as well as one to promote social innovation.
McGonigal shows games that matter can be a powerful tool for change. So instead of wanting to read our future, why not make the future instead?


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