Using Games to Improve the World

English: Game designer and author Jane McGonig...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m glad I watched the video below after the previous TED Talk. While I was trying to remain positive, the images of war in the other TED Talk really hit my pessimistic site while this video fired up my optimist regarding the potential of games. Jane McGonigal made a convincing argument for how we can use video games to change the world.

What caused me to feel better about the potential of video games? Jane pointed out that it is with great optimism that we approach games. We believe we can solve the problems of a virtual world. We only need to encourage the same belief and optimism in the real world in order to put those skills to good use.

Jane McGonigal – TED from Calixte Pictet on Vimeo.

During the video, Jane McGonigal shared three games she created that encourage gamers to develop the skills needed to improve the world. I haven’t played them yet, but they look interesting. If you want to check them out, they are World Without Oil, Evoke, and Superstruck (which looks like it’s not available to play anymore).

The games McGonigal created teach skills necessary to solve current world problems. World Without Oil puts the player in the middle of a global oil crisis. Players have to learn how they will survive, how they need to change their actions based on the price of oil and food and other situations in order to make it another day.

In general, gamers turn to games to get away from the real world. Sometimes that may be because in the virtual gaming world, they get the feedback and positive strokes they don’t receive in real life. They also get to feel a part of something bigger. Games can set up just-right-sized challenges that, when met, empower and encourage the player to continue their pursuit.

In school, students who aren’t “good” at studying, are often faced with a day of negative feedback. They are constantly reminded what they are not good at. But in games, they can be good at something. They receive points and badges and awards that prove they are good at something.

By using the best elements of video games, we can engage and encourage students to take on just-right-sized challenges that help them develop the skills and understanding they need to be successful right now while also preparing them for their futures.

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