Gamers: Improving Reality!

Jane McGonigal at the Harvard Bookstore on Feb.1, 2011.

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing a talk by Jane McGonigal, game designer of TED talk fame, and author of Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.  I’ve known Jane via the web for years, from being involved with the ARG community and playing her game “Top Secret Dance-Off“, but it was wonderful to meet her in person finally.

Jane was in Cambridge for the evening at the Harvard Book Store for a talk, Q&A, and book-signing.  She talked about some of the topics in her book (which I’m a couple chapters into at this point, and finding a fantastic read). One of the most salient points that she impressed, though, was the definition of a game as an unnecessary obstacle that we, as gamers, volunteer to tackle. The concept that when we play games, we provoke a state of eustress is one that is particularly powerful. The argument is as simple as this: we like to be productive. We are happiest when we’re doing something challenging. Games give us this challenge in ways that our real lives, often, do not.

Another great point that resonated with me was the idea that just 90 seconds of playing a powerful avatar in a game could have a lot of real-life implications like increased confidence.  Jane did mention, however, that playing for more than 20 hours a week can negate a lot of the positive effects that games can otherwise have.  As with anything– moderation is good.  I can absolutely relate with this, as a lot of my own personal leadership skill I feel I learned while playing and creating games.

Jane emphasized that we need to stop thinking of gamers at escapists, and focus more on how we’re creating positive experiences for ourselves.  She gave us the example of her own personal recovery game, SuperBetter– a role-playing game she created to help herself recuperate after a brain injury.

Fire Hose Games was founded with the mission of creating games that have positive impact, something that we still feel very strongly about to this day.  We absolutely believe in the power of games to bring people together and solve real-world problems, and we hope that we can contribute to this mission through game-creation.