Jane McGonigal: How Gaming Can Solve Problems and Help the World

By Tony Benz

Jane McGonigal speaks to the crowd in Marquette University's Weasler Auditorium.

Jane McGonigal speaks at Marquette University's Weasler Auditorium. Photo by Ben Smidt.

When I heard that Jane McGonigal was coming to Marquette to give a talk about video games and how they might be harnessed for the betterment of society, I was ecstatic. As a fairly avid gamer, I wanted to hear what she had to say about my much-maligned and dismissed pastime. In short, she did not disappoint. She has studied the power of games to inspire creativity and energy and enthusiasm in those who play them. It isn’t just theory either, she has been putting her findings to good use. The games she discussed, World Without Oil and Evoke, are designed to bring the mechanics of games into the real world, using the creativity, energy, and focus generated by games, and fueling them towards generating ideas, or teaching.

Games are often dismissed as useless time-wasters, but it cannot be denied that they are powerful. Today’s game designers have learned how to design an experience that enfolds the player and lets them achieve success in the world created in the game. What McGonigal is working towards is to take the immersive nature and the excitement of games and channel these emotions by, instead of crafting a virtual experience in a virtual world, craft structured real-world experiences that can impart the same level of excitement and the same feeling of accomplishment to players as a video game.

The reason why this is such an appealing idea is easy to see. The rise in popularity that video games have enjoyed over the past few decades is no accident, and McGonigal intends to channel the power of video games into solving real world problems. This is an effort that I wholeheartedly applaud and I can’t wait to see what games can help us achieve in the future.

View photos of Jane McGonigal’s visit to Marquette on Flickr
Watch a clip form the multi-player thumb war game at Marquette on YouTube

Tony Benz is a student in the Diederich College of Communication and a Resident Einstein in the Wakerly Technology Training Center.

2 Responses to “Jane McGonigal: How Gaming Can Solve Problems and Help the World”

  1. 1 scottfeldstein November 3, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Sorry I had to miss it. Reminds me of the time I heard Marc Prensky (author of “Don’t bother me mom–I’m learning!”) speak at an e-learning conference a few years back.

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