Video Games as Life Coaches

Question: How are video games improving our lives?

Jesse Schell: I think right now one of the ways they're making our lives better is they make people think.  That's one of the things video games are good at.  In order to win the game, you can't just sit there; you have to think.  You have to think and engage and make decisions, and I think... When you talk now to the people who are at the forefront of educational reform, all of them are talking about How do we use these games?  I see how powerful they are.  They're all picking them up like some kind of sword and trying to charge in to figure out how to use this to make education better.

I think in terms of improving ourselves, that's one of the areas we're going to see at the forefront, but I think there are going to be many other areas, as well.  We've already seen the success of things like the Wii Fit, which is an exercise platform for the Wii, and it's been incredibly popular.  In terms of people sticking with it and it really changing their lives, I'm not so sure, but the fact that they've already made I think two billion dollars selling those things speaks to the fact that this is something people want.

You talk to wealthy people who have a personal trainer, and they talk about how effective it is.  This person comes in and says You need to do this, and you need to do that.  There's a social pressure in order for you to do this and not let the trainer down, and trainers know these kinds of psychological tricks in order to kind of put you right at the right level you need to be.  Everyone will be able to have that kind of personal trainer, not only just for physical things and exercise but for their education, their hobbies, for their art, for their spirituality, for anything in their life that they'd like to improve at.

Question:
As a game designer, how do you react to media stories about video game addiction?

Jesse Schell:  It is certainly true that there are people who play video games in a way that makes their life out of balance.  Usually these are people who have some significant gap in their life, and they're filling it with something in a way that isn't healthy.  Some people say I... You occasionally hear people make this accusation that Well, there's these problems with video game addiction; it's ruining people's lives, and the problem is these video game designers try and make the games too compelling.  They design the games to be addictive, and if they would just stop doing that, the problem would go away.  But this is like saying that obesity is the fault of the bakers for making the cakes too delicious.  And if only you would make the cakes a little less tasty, there would be... this whole obesity problem would go away.  That's not where the problem lies.  The problem lies with people understanding how to take these entertainment experiences and integrate them in a healthy way into their lives.  As predominant as these entertainments are in our lives, the problem does not... I mean, it's definitely a problem for some people.  It doesn't seem to be an epidemic problem.  It is definitely a problem for some people and certainly worthy of study and understanding about how to best manage it.

Recorded on June 21, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont

In the future, video games may allow everyone to have a personal trainer, not only for exercise, but for their education, hobbies, art, spirituality—anything in their life that they'd like to improve.

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