Jane McGonigal: Games Teach Us To Have Epic Ambitions

Jane McGonigal discusses the skills we learn from gaming and how can they help us enhance, rather than detract from our ambitions as humans.  

What's the Big Idea?

Jane McGonigal argues that games are not a waste of time. In fact, she argues, "we need to look at what games are doing for gamers, the skills that we’re developing, the relationships that we’re forming, the heroic qualities that we get to practice every time we play."

What are these types of skills and how can they help us enhance, rather than detract from our ambitions as humans? 

Watch the video here:

What's the Significance?

If you are a gamer, you may have been told that what you love to do is a waste of time, you are probably addicted to it, and you might have more aggressive tendencies as a result. Jane McGonigal says that message needs to change, and responds to what she says are the following myths about gaming.

Are games addictive?

McGonigal says that games simply offer us something that "the real world sometimes does a terrible job of offering us." Games are addictive insofar as the provide something "that we crave most," whether it’s a sense of "satisfying hands-on work where we can really see the outcomes of our actions, or a chance to succeed and get better at something, to start out being really bad and then have this sense of mastery as we get better and better."

Don't violent games make us more aggressive in real life?

McGonigal argues that violent games that require strategy and cooperation with other players are "actually honing skills of cooperation, not skills of violence." These games require you to work with and communicate with your teammates. "The actual effort involved is highly collaborative, highly trustworthy, highly social," says McGonigal. 

In fact, McGonigal lists a number of skills that she says are prevalent in several generations of gamers. These are:

  • Resilience
  • Perseverance
  • Grit and determination
  • Epic ambition
  • Collaboration
  • How can these skills be applied to the real world?

    Think Like a Gamer

    While games are escapist, McGonigal sees them as training for real life. She says we can use the "gamer way of thinking" to tackle global challenges like climate change, and curing cancer, and overcoming political corruption." In other words, McGonigal says gamers are primed to do "extraordinary things in their real lives."

    This past month, Big Think has been running a series called Humanizing Technology, which asks the broad question of how technology can empower us, not make us more vulnerable. To view other examples of new and emerging technology that accomplishes this, visit the series here.

    Image courtesy of Shutterstock

    Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan

    Develop mindfulness to boost your creative intelligence

    Sharon Salzberg, world-renowned mindfulness leader, teaches meditation at Big Think Edge.

    Image: Big Think
    Big Think Edge
    • Try meditation for the first time with this guided lesson or, if you already practice, enjoy being guided by a world-renowned meditation expert.
    • Sharon Salzberg teaches mindfulness meditation for Big Think Edge.
    • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
    Keep reading Show less

    For a long time, the West shaped the world. That time is over.

    The 21st century is experiencing an Asianization of politics, business, and culture.

    • Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
    • The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, particularly in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
    • European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, however, what we're seeing now is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
    Keep reading Show less

    Why modern men are losing their testosterone

    Research has shown that men today have less testosterone than they used to. What's happening?

    Flickr user Tom Simpson
    Sex & Relationships
    • Several studies have confirmed that testosterone counts in men are lower than what they used to be just a few decades ago.
    • While most men still have perfectly healthy testosterone levels, its reduction puts men at risk for many negative health outcomes.
    • The cause of this drop in testosterone isn't entirely clear, but evidence suggests that it is a multifaceted result of modern, industrialized life.
    Keep reading Show less

    Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

    Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

    • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
    • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
    • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
    Keep reading Show less