Harnessing the Power of Video Games

Tuesday Tasha talked about TED talks.  Coincidentally, I just showed one to my Writing About Video Games class last week.  Oh, yes, you heard me right.  Wait, let me explain:

I studied utopias and utopian literature in grad school.  One of my interests was/is video games as utopian/dystopian space.  Plus, I’m a gamer.  And at SUU, we pick a theme for our intermediate writing courses, so we teach academic writing with a focus on our theme.  I’m teaching my maiden voyage video games course this semester.

One of the books we’re reading is Reality Is Broken by Jane McGonigal.  She’s a game designer who did her PhD about how life is just not as well-designed or satisfying as video games are.  Video games have attainable goals through quests.  They provide satisfactory work through eustress, a positive stress that is very different from what many of us experience the majority of the time.  And gamers are happy to volunteer their time to learn game conventions, help with community goals and issues, and to work repeatedly at a problem until they solve it.  Most hard-core gamers spend about 20 hours a week involved in their games.

Her point is that while many dismiss gamers as time-wasters, they’re onto something.  Or game designers are onto something.  Jane McGonigal is definitely onto something.  If we can recreate the same motivation in real life that we find in games, we could solve all the world’s problem.  We certainly could solve our own!

If you take the time to watch this TED talk by Jane McGonigal (and this is one that older kids and teens will enjoy, too), you might be surprised at what she has learned about human motivation and productivity:

“Games Can Make a Better World”