Reaction to Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk

As a sports business student who has studied why people care about sports so much and as someone who used to spent a lot of time playing video games, I’ve always thought what the world would be like if people put their passion and time spent on real world problems instead of video games.

With the almost obscene amount of time people spend playing World of Warcraft, my initial reaction is the continuation of the concept that video games are an escape.  They provide the epic challenge and opportunities for epic wins and people continually go to the games to get this feeling because they don’t have it in real life.  On the other hand, there are plenty of smart, capable people I know who play video games to the point of addiction.

Jane McGonigal brings up the interesting challenge of redirecting the energy towards something more beneficial.  By creating games to solve the problems she hopes to merely change the complexion of the situation.  Instead of saying, “Let’s solve this bank crisis,” she changes the questions and how information is received from the participants.  It is an interesting concept because I have changed units of homework problems to sports questions so that it is not as painful to do.

One part of the digital community that is incredibly underrated by the population at large is how tightly connected strangers can be.  There are online communities like reddit where people will send each other gifts in real life after only talking on the website.  As stated in the TED talks the wiki for World of Warcraft is the second largest wiki in the world after only Wikipedia itself.

Jane McGonigal’s statement on the trust it requires to play a game together is very interesting and something I hadn’t thought of before.  I play Madden and NCAA Football online against people all the time and there is an unspoken code going in that people will play the game how an actual football game is played.  For example, you don’t go for it on 4th and 25, you don’t go for two after scoring a touchdown, and you certainly don’t quit the game before you lose.  The unspoken trust that takes place is actually startling when you think about it, but are reminded of whenever someone breaks the rules.

I personally would love to see the world where solving problems online with trusted people is a way to bring video games from escapism to reality.  As I’ve stated before, there are incredibly capable people playing video games simply because they are more fun than real life at times.  Especially with the crowdsourcing and determination gamers in particularly show, a lot of our problems could be solved.

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One Response to Reaction to Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk

  1. cstabile says:

    You raise (at least) two important points when it comes to thinking about McGonigal’s argument. The first is a point you pass over quickly — “I have changed units of homework problems to sports questions so that it is not as painful to do” — and the second involves the relationships that develop online between players that Turkle might dismiss as being inauthentic, but that are, as you point out, deeply felt and important enough for people to try to connect in the real world as well. More on the second later in the course, but your point about taking some of the pain out of homework is worth mulling over. It’s at the heart of much of the literature about gamification in education these days — how do we make grinding at homework as rewarding (or at least somewhat rewarding) as grinding at leveling up or learning the mechanics of a particular game? There’s a lot about contemporary educational experiences that’s rooted in the nineteenth century — the point of the introduction to Cathy Davidson’s book Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. Might be worth looking at if you want to pursue these ideas further.

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