Jane McGonigal, PhD is a world-renowned designer of alternate reality games — or, games that are designed to improve real lives and solve real problems. She believes game designers are on a humanitarian mission — and her #1 goal in life is to see a game developer win a Nobel Peace Prize.
She is the New York Times bestselling author of Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World (Penguin Press, 2011) — and currently serves as the Chief Creative Officer for SuperBetterLabs, where she is making games powered by the science of positive emotion and social connection.
She has created and deployed award-winning games and secret missions in more than 30 countries on six continents, for partners such as the American Heart Association, the International Olympics Committee, the World Bank Institute, and the New York Public Library. She specializes in games that challenge players to tackle real-world problems, such as poverty, hunger and climate change, through planetary-scale collaboration. Her best-known work includes EVOKE, Superstruct, World Without Oil, Cruel 2 B Kind, and The Lost Ring. These games have been featured in The New York Times, Wired, and The Economist, and on MTV, CNN, and NPR.
Jane is also a future forecaster. She currently serves as the Director of Games Research & Development at the Institute for the Future, a non-profit research group in Palo Alto, California. Her research focuses on how games are transforming the way we lead our real lives, and how they can be used to increase our resilience and well-being. Her work has been featured in Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, O(prah) Magazine,Fast Company, The New York Times Science section, and more.
She is the founder of Gameful, “a secret headquarters for worldchanging game developers.”
She has a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in performance studies, and has consulted and developed internal game workshops for more than a dozen Fortune 500 and Global 500 Companies, including Intel, Nike, Disney, McDonalds, Accenture, Microsoft, and Nintendo. Before joining IFTF, she taught game design and game theoryat UC Berkeley and the San Francisco Art Institute.
She enjoys speaking to global audiences — (watch videos). She has appeared at TED and the New Yorker Conference, and keynoted SXSW interactive, the Game Developers Conference, the Idea Festival, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Web 2.0 Summit, UX Week, Webstock, and more. Invite her to speak to your organization or at your event. (She especially loves to travel to Asia, the UK and Scandinavia!)
A former New Yorker, she now lives in San Francisco with her husband Kiyash and Shetland Sheepdog Meche.
Jane McGonigal: There’s definitely a misperception that women and girls don’t play games. That’s not true at all. In fact, 40 percent of gamers are women, and 94 percent of girls under the age of 18 play games regularly, play computer and video games regularly. So there is really an extraordinary number of girls and women playing.
We do tend to play different kinds of games. We’re much more interested in cooperative than competitive games. We’re much more interested in social gaming rather than solo gaming. And we’re not as interested in first-person shooters, which do tend to get a lot more of the media coverage.
But girls and women are playing games in huge numbers, especially when you look at that under 18 demographic. It’s virtually everyone, which I think is great news because games do give you these real-life skills and abilities, ways of thinking about what you’re capable of, ways of solving problems, and we want just as many girls and women developing those skills as boys and men.
Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd