Jane McGonigal, PhD, is a senior researcher at the Institute for the Future and the author of The New York Times bestseller Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. McGonigal's newest book is titled SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient--Powered by the Science of Games. Her work has been featured in The Economist, Wired, and The New York Times and on MTV, CNN, and NPR. She has been called one of the top ten innovators to watch (BusinessWeek), one of the one hundred most creative people in business (Fast Company), and one of the fifty most important people in the gaming industry (Game Developers Magazine). Her TED talks on games have been viewed more than ten million times.
Jane McGonigal: There’s been some fascinating research to suggest that when we play games and we tap into positive emotions like curiosity and optimism and creativity, and even love, that these emotions actually stay with us for up to 24 hours after we finish playing the game. So studies have shown that we’re more likely to cooperate with someone in our real lives after we’ve played a social game with them where we’re doing some kind of cooperative mission. Or we’re more likely to set an ambitious goal for ourselves after we’ve succeeded in a game. We’ll speak up more for ourselves. We’ll even flirt with more attractive stranger. So there’s this kind of transfer of our confidence, of our creativity, of our ambition to our real lives.
We have this idea that playing games is kind of a waste of time. That it’s not a very productive way to spend our time. And I kept hearing that even as I was evangelizing all of the benefits of gaming – the emotional benefits, the social, the psychological benefits. People kept saying, “Yeah, but it’s just a waste of time. Shouldn’t we be doing something more productive than avenging some Angry Birds?” And it really made me wonder, “Well, what do we mean by productive?
Productivity is about producing something. What do we really want to produce more of in our lives and in the lives of the people around us? Are we trying to produce more emails, or are we trying to produce more positive emotion? Are we trying to produce stronger relationships? Are we trying to produce a sense of meaning and purpose?” And it turns out that games are actually quite good at producing those things. That’s what they produce more of and better than almost anything else.
So when people say, “Games are a waste of time and not productive,” I would challenge them to ask themselves, “What do you want to produce more of?” And if it’s things like better relationships and more positive emotion in my daily life, then games might be the most productive thing you can do.
Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd