Online games are very popular around the world as a means of diversion. These games are a way to win in ways that people do not see themselves winning in their real lives. It is possible to take the lessons learned in games and translate them into real life success. The key is to harness the skills that are learned by playing games and move those skills into the real world.
World of Warcraft has millions of players around the world. It has grown to be one of the most popular online games ever made. Jane McGonigal, a game designer, said that games like World of Warcraft can be used to help people learn skills that will allow them to solve the world’s problems.
During a TEDTalk recorded last year McGonigal explains how her 10 (now 11) years of experience as a game designer has taught her how gaming can foster valuable skills in the rising generation. “ [Her] goal for the next decade is to try to make it as easy to save the world in real life as it is to save the world in online games.”
McGonigal said that in 2010, “humanity” spent 3 billion hours per week playing online games. She would like to see the total increase to 21 billion hours of gameplay every week.
“If we want to solve problems like hunger, poverty, climate change, global conflict, obesity – I believe that we need to aspire to play games online for at least 21 billion hours a week by the end of the next decade.”
She goes on to describe how a person feels when they have an, “epic win,” how that sense of accomplishment is expressed in their faces and how they feel they can do something that they had thought was impossible.
During her graduate studies she looked at games like World of Warcraft. She saidthat this game matches you with world-saving situations that are challenging, but not impossible.
“There’s no unemployment in World of Warcraft. There’s no siting around ringing your hands. There’s always something specific and important to be done,” she said.
As of her talk in February of 2010, World of Warcraft players had logged 5.93 million years of play time. She says that the average gamer spends 10,000 hours playing online games by the age of 21. This matches exactly with Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour theory of success.
McGonigal said gamers are getting good at four things. First is urgent optimism. This is like extreme self motivation. Second is social fabric. The interactions with other people in the game helps build up trust. Third is blissful productivity. Gamers are willing to work hard if they are given the right work. Fourth is epic meaning. She said, “Gamers love to be attached to awe-inspiring mission.”
McGonigal’s work is in getting gamers to believe that not only can they change their virtual worlds, but they can also change the real world. She shares the story by Herodotus of how dice games where invented about 2,500 years ago in the kingdom of Lydia. These games where used to keep the people from thinking about their hunger during a long famine. She said that “Recently scientists have suggested that Herodotus’ crazy story is actually true.”
To see how McGonigal has developed games that help people solve real world problems go to the TED website and search for, “Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world.” So, the next time you see someone playing World of Warcraft try to realize that what they are doing is not a waste of their time.