David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
from the world's big
Start Learning

Gaming: Truths & Myths

Jane McGonigalThe thing I’m most passionate about right now is changing how we talk about games and how we talk about gamers.  We have a number of generations who have grown up being told that they have wasted their time or wasted their lives playing games – people like me, who adore games and feel like the best versions of ourselves when we play.  And we’re told that it’s a waste of time, that we should have been doing something else.  Well, we didn’t do something else, and kids today aren’t doing something else.  Kids are playing more hours per week than any generation before.  And instead of just ringing our hands and telling people that what they love is bad for them, I think we need to change that message.  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, like resilience, like perseverance, and grit, and determination, like having epic ambitions and the ability to work with other players, sometimes thousands of other players at the same time.

There are a couple of concerns that come up often when we talk about video games.  The first is addiction, and that’s definitely a real problem.  What I’ve discovered is that games do a better job, in many ways, of providing the things that we crave most, you know, 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.  Gamer addiction is not about, necessarily, the quality of the games being somehow fundamentally—they just grab us, and we can’t escape—, it’s really about what they offer us that the real world sometimes does a terrible job of offering us.  And it is, hopefully, our goal to take those things that we get from games and find ways to have them in our real lives, too.

The other big concern that people have about games is violence, of course.  There is no evidence that gaming makes you more violent.  In fact, a study came out just last week showing that gamers who play violent games that require strategy with your teammates or cooperation with other players to beat the bad guys are actually much more cooperative in the game and in real life, that they’re actually honing skills of cooperation, not skills of violence.  This makes perfect sense because when you’re playing a game with other players, you’re not actually being violent, right?  You have to actually work with the other players.  You have to trust them to finish the game.  You have to work with your teammates.  You have to communicate.  There’s no actual violence involved, right?  The actual effort involved is highly collaborative, highly trustworthy, highly social. 

So, the message needs to be this is training for real life.  You know, yes, games are escapist in that we do get to escape reality when we play them, but they’re not just escapist.  They’re also returnist.  We return to our real lives with real ways of thinking about what we’re capable of, real ways of solving problems more creatively.  And this is the great news for the gamer generations, that we have spent our lives planting this seed, planting this capability, and now we can take those skills and abilities to real challenges, whether they’re things like overcoming concussions the way that I used my gamer way of thinking to deal with that or tackling global challenges like climate change, and curing cancer, and overcoming political corruption.  There are games to do all of these things now that you can play, you can bring your gamer abilities and help save the real world.  So if you have a gamer in your life, or if you are a gamer, the good news is you are ready, they are ready to do extraordinary things in their real lives.

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd


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, like resilience, like perseverance, and grit, and determination, like having epic ambitions and the ability to work with other players, sometimes thousands of other players at the same time."

LIVE EVENT | Radical innovation: Unlocking the future of human invention

Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo

Keep reading Show less

The dangers of the chemical imbalance theory of depression

A new Harvard study finds that the language you use affects patient outcome.

Image: solarseven / Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • A study at Harvard's McLean Hospital claims that using the language of chemical imbalances worsens patient outcomes.
  • Though psychiatry has largely abandoned DSM categories, professor Joseph E Davis writes that the field continues to strive for a "brain-based diagnostic system."
  • Chemical explanations of mental health appear to benefit pharmaceutical companies far more than patients.
Keep reading Show less

Navy SEALs: How to build a warrior mindset

SEAL training is the ultimate test of both mental and physical strength.

  • The fact that U.S. Navy SEALs endure very rigorous training before entering the field is common knowledge, but just what happens at those facilities is less often discussed. In this video, former SEALs Brent Gleeson, David Goggins, and Eric Greitens (as well as authors Jesse Itzler and Jamie Wheal) talk about how the 18-month program is designed to build elite, disciplined operatives with immense mental toughness and resilience.
  • Wheal dives into the cutting-edge technology and science that the navy uses to prepare these individuals. Itzler shares his experience meeting and briefly living with Goggins (who was also an Army Ranger) and the things he learned about pushing past perceived limits.
  • Goggins dives into why you should leave your comfort zone, introduces the 40 percent rule, and explains why the biggest battle we all face is the one in our own minds. "Usually whatever's in front of you isn't as big as you make it out to be," says the SEAL turned motivational speaker. "We start to make these very small things enormous because we allow our minds to take control and go away from us. We have to regain control of our mind."
Keep reading Show less

NASA's idea for making food from thin air just became a reality — it could feed billions

Here's why you might eat greenhouse gases in the future.

Jordane Mathieu on Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • The company's protein powder, "Solein," is similar in form and taste to wheat flour.
  • Based on a concept developed by NASA, the product has wide potential as a carbon-neutral source of protein.
  • The man-made "meat" industry just got even more interesting.
Keep reading Show less

New guidelines redefine 'obesity' to curb fat shaming

Is focusing solely on body mass index the best way for doctor to frame obesity?

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • New guidelines published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal argue that obesity should be defined as a condition that involves high body mass index along with a corresponding physical or mental health condition.
  • The guidelines note that classifying obesity by body mass index alone may lead to fat shaming or non-optimal treatments.
  • The guidelines offer five steps for reframing the way doctors treat obesity.
Keep reading Show less