Real World Online Gaming

Jane MacGonigal stated that her goal for the next decade is to make saving the world in real life as easy as it is on online games. Her statement made myself and I imagine the audience she was talking to skeptical. MacGonigal presents for skills that a gamer develops as they continue to play games. Though I find it inspiring that she is thinking of ways to improve the world in an unusual fashion. However, there are multiple aspects of her argument that I find hard to accept.

The amount of time that is invested into video games makes it reasonable that MacGonigal argues the fact that a skill set can be learned. However, I believe that she is too optimistic and that the skills that can be learned do not apply to every gamer. She believes that gamers will become “super-empowered hopeful individuals”.

The appeal of online games, or any game in general is the fact that it is not real life. Though gamers make it so the video game is very much a part of their real world, the effects of what happens on the online world does not hold real implications, for most people. So when the idea of creating a game that is fictional but also contains real life content, I find it hard to get on board with her enthusiasm. Without having tried any such game yet, I am worried about the negative effects that could arise. For her game “World without Oil”, she states that within the game there is enough real life content that the gamer will change how they actually live their life because of the game. Gamers can be characterized as people who strive to fix problems within their games. But what happens when a person is not a good gamer? I personally do not consider myself a gamer but I do enjoy online games. Where does this online game put me when I cannot figure out how to solve the problem? Because the game has real life implications, I would worry about failure. In a normal game I would still be frustrated with not being able to solve a problem but I can still walk away from the game. Games such as  “World without Oil” make it difficult for me to walk away.

The idea that playing a game can help change the world is appealing. The online game Foldit, as introduced in the article “In a Video Game, Tackling the Complexities of Protein Folding”, allows for gamers to become involved in a positive way in research. However, this is a very specialized field that will not appeal to everyone. I am interested in what MacGonigal and other game developers are able to create. Though I am skeptical that everyone should invest more time playing video games, I have seen online communities able to complete amazing tasks so this make me a little hopeful.

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One Response to Real World Online Gaming

  1. cstabile says:

    I like the blend of skepticism and optimism in this post — seems to me to be the best way to approach an argument like this. What I like about McGonigal is her optimism (although I worry about the manner in which it’s fundamentally linked to work and productivity) and your post doesn’t lose sight of that utopian vision. I don’t think she believes that everyone will be involved in games like these. Rather, given that so many people spend so many hours playing games, her question is how do we harness that passion and energy for the benefit of humanity? I think we agree that it’s too soon to foreclose that possibility.

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