Saturday, April 20, 2024

RSA: Games Make Us Smarter

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SAN FRANCISCO. Playing video games is typically considered to be a form of recreation. As it turns out, playing games might just also be helping humans to become more resilient in their everyday lives and with IT.

Speaking in a keynote session at the RSA Conference, Game Developer Jane McGonigal told the capacity crowd to embrace gaming. Her reasons are many and they begin with the current state of the American workforce.

“71 percent of U.S. workers are not engaged,” McGonigal said. “What this means is they show up and they just don’t care about the work they are doing, or they don’t feel like they are being challenged.”

According to data from pollster Gallup cited by McGonigal, the disengagement of workers is costing U.S. companies as much as $300 billion a year.

In contrast, American gamers are currently spending a remarkable 7 billion hours a week playing games. She described gaming as being the ‘engagement economy’ where people are fully engage with the task at hand.

“We can take advantage of this pent up desire to engage and use it for real world good,” McGonigal said.

She note that it took 100 million hours to build wikipedia’s content, which is the same as 3 weeks worth of Angry Birds or 7 days of Call of Duty game play by gamers.

“Just imagine what we could do if we put that effort together,” McGonigal said. “Wikipeida might seem harder than playing Angry Birds, but it’s not.”

There are two things that are needed to make the engagement economy work. McGonigal said, we need to have mass participation and users with skills and abilities.

What are gamers good at?

McGongial note that gamers are good at spatial awareness, multi-tasking and at building community and co-operation. Gamers are also good at building up 10 positive emotions that are key to success in life and in business.

The top 10 emotions gamers experience when playing games are: joy, relief, love, surprise, pride, curiosity, excitement, awe and wonder, contentment and creativity.

“Bringing these positive emotions into real problem solving is the secret to gamification,” McGonigal said. “It’s not just about generic motivation, it’s about leveraging these positive emotions.”

She noted that science proves that when humans experience a range of positive emotions over a period time they become more ambitious, able to achieve goals better.

McGonigal pointed out that on average, gamers fail in their games fail 4 out 5 times, by not finishing a level or getting the right score.

“With nothing else in our lives do we accept that level of failure,” McGonigal said. “We don’t allow ourselves to learn from failures and get better.”

She added that, “games make us resilient and things like anxiety and depression don’t get in our way of going after our goals.”

gaming, RSA, Jane McGonigal

Game Developer Jane McGonigal

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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