Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Games Can Change The World

I recently re-watched Jane McGonigal's TED talk, "Gaming can make a better world". If you haven't seen it, you really should pop over and watch it - even if you don't buy in to everything she talks about, it's still quite inspiring. In fact, I'll just embed it here for you:

In the video, Jane talks about framing real world problems in game terms to take advantage of gamer habits. I think this is a wonderful idea, and actually fits in with some industry predictions I have been reading about. Dan Greenawalt, a Game Director at Turn 10 Studios, said in an interview with IGN that in 2020 he predicts  that games will become so integrated with reality that daily life will become the meta-game. You'll get achievements for going on a date, or have daily quests to clean the house. While this may seem silly, as a gamer we are convinced to do absolutely dull, drudgerous tasks over and over again through games all the time - and we enjoy it. If we can bring that into the real world, to solve big or small problems, why not?

What really captured my imagination is Jane's most recent project (as of the video) - using games in an education program. My friends and I have been talking about how, in a game, when you complete the game it's a demonstration of mastery of that game. The whole game is an exam. Can we structure learning of traditional subjects in this way, so that completing a class is it's own exam? It seems to me that anything, ANYTHING could be taught in terms of a game - and be the better for it. With things that are fun and engaging, our mind soaks up facts like a sponge. I remember the names of the cities and countries I've explored in World of Warcraft far better than the places I studied in my geography class, for example.

I'm not sure I agree with everything Jane says in the video, but I do agree that we can use games to improve the world. There's a lot of potential there, and with game-playing becoming more and more of a mainstream activity, I think we would be foolish not to try to tap into it.

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