Gaming offers social solutions
Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
“We’re going to take games very seriously for the next hour.”
Jane McGonigal, a game designer focused on using her work for social change, began her Tate Series lecture on Tuesday evening preparing her lecture attendees to realize gaming “as an extremely powerful platform.”
“This is today’s phenomenon,” McGonigal said.
The designer and author believes that when, on average, a person spends 10,000 hours gaming before the age of 21, a mere 84 hours short of time spent in school, society needs to recognize and utilize this means to make a social change for the better.
“[Gaming changes] the way our brain activates when we face everyday problems,” she said. “It effectively changes our notion of what is humanly possible.”
McGonigal has made it her life mission to use video games to make world impacts by providing gamers the means to look at real problems and effectively bring positive change.
Sharing a study on child cancer patients, McGonigal explained that patients who played games based on the chemotherapy fight remained consistent with their chemo treatment and thus were overall more successful in staying cancer-free.
“[The games] allow them to feel more empowered to look at [cancer] as something they can control in their lives.”
She explained that such “personal efficacy” and a strong belief that a person has control over their own life psychologically attracts gamers to play.
“When we play games we feel fired up and we want to engage with what is difficult,” McGonigal said.
One of her own designs was based on the poverty crisis in Africa, and part of the game involved the player going out into their community and completing a project that presented a solution to a real life problem.
Her games advertise educating gamers in “mental, emotional and social resilience,” reaching out to the more than one billion gamers internationally.
One study was released warning parents of gaming activating the part of the brain that is also associated with addictions. McGonigal never denied this. However, she was certain to clarify the positives neglected in the published study.
“It’s true. It’s the same part activated by a cocaine addiction,” McGonigal said. “It’s also the part that lights up when we’re determined.”
Such willpower and resolve engaged through gaming provides the opportunity for social change, according to McGonigal. Gamers spend 80 percent of their time failing, and the designer said that the experience of failing and immediately making another attempt is one of the biggest key factors.
Junior Claire Bauman attended the lecture as an usher and said the experience posed many questions and ideas she hadn’t before considered.
“I never thought about using gamers to solve world problems,” Bauman said.
Though not a gamer herself, Bauman thinks that using games as a means to create a change can reach a diversity of social groups.
“You can be as old as you are and as young as you are. You still enjoy that competitive spirit,” Bauman said.
As to whether or not such a “do good” concept could materialize on the larger scale, freshman Joe St. Angelo had his doubts.
“You have the large game companies that aren’t aiming to solve world problems,” St. Angelo said. “They’re aiming to make money.”
Regardless, as a recreational gamer himself, St. Angelo still left inspired by McGonigal’s very apparent passion for her field.
“I thought it was fascinating,” St. Angelo said.
Despite differing opinions of such designs’ true applicability, one of McGonigal's biggest points was the community created by co-op gaming.
“Social gamers are more likely to help others in real life,” McGonigal said. “They’re very collaborative.”