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How Gaming Can Save the World 85

An anonymous reader writes "Game designer and all-around interesting person Jane McGonigal just published a book arguing that playing games will help solve the urgent problems of the real world. To mark the publication, Discover Magazine has a Q&A with McGonigal on several topics, such as: exactly how much gaming is too much? 'There was a really significant study that tracked 1,100 soldiers for a year, and looked at how they were spending their free time with things they considered coping mechanisms—using Facebook, listening to music, reading, working out, or playing video games. They correlated this with incidences of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, suicide attempts, and domestic violence. The found that by a very wide margin, the most psychologically protected individuals—who had the lowest rates of any of these negative experiences—were people who were playing video games 3 to 4 hours a day. ... That was fascinating—it was more beneficial than anything but working out 7 hours a day.' She also talks about how relationships forged in games can change the world, and which world problems exactly is she trying to solve via games. (Hint: think big.)"
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How Gaming Can Save the World

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  • workout for 7 hours and game for 3-4 hours after that!
  • Someone's been reading Ender's Game. Or watching SG Universe.

  • The two main ways in which gaming will "save the world": solving obesity and world peace.

    • Well, now that you mention it, ways of solving conflict other than having thousands of people splattering each other's guts all over the landscape, have existed for most of human history. E.g., deciding who's right by single combat is attested from primitive tribes to the late middle ages. And sometimes even there some kind of contest of ability could be substituted for actual combat.

      E.g., probably the funniest such case was when, if I remember that legend right, a minor dispute between Moldavia and Wallach

      • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @10:03AM (#35019224) Journal

        Or to give another example of a conflict solved by, shall we say, less than martial means, take an insvasion of Russia by the Mongols, where the armies met on the opposite edges of a river, and with obviously neither having enough superiority to charge across the river. So after shouting various slurs and insults to the other for a couple of days, the Mongols, obviously having lost to the superior cussword vocabulary of the brave defenders from Muskowy, turned tail and went home.

        Well, I guess the fact that the Russians had moved some kind of moving fort to threaten their flank may have also played a role, but that's not as funny ;)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There was a study a decade or so ago where, if you can believe it, patients with severe burns were asked to rate how much they "enjoyed" having their dressings changed on a scale of one to ten. Changing the dressings on a burns victim is generally regarded as one of the most traumatic procedures a patient can undergo outside of surgery, and answers generally ranged from "crying" to "What kind of inhuman monster would even ask me that?" to "minus fifty".

    The patients were then asked to play a videogame (I thi

  • by HaeMaker ( 221642 ) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @03:42AM (#35017398) Homepage

    Here we go again! Did game playing really prevent PTSD or are people who play games less susceptible to PTSD?

    • by Seumas ( 6865 )

      I love video games, but the most popular games in the world are not facilitators of the kind of positive benefits being suggested. Trust me, if you play Call of Duty: Black Ops for three to four hours a day, the quantity of hateful racial and homophobic slurs (not to mention the inane sounds and chatter from people's fucking children who are playing an M game with adults and idiots who won't turn their fucking mic off while they carry on conversations with people on their end) is enough to GIVE you PTSD. In

      • by TardisX ( 15222 )

        I eventually woke up Christmas morning and said to myself "I can't play it any more. I can't bring myself to login and play it today. My ears can't take one more minute of it." And I haven't touched it, since.

        Couldn't you just mute the in-game chat??

        • No, of course he couldn't. Technical solutions to social problems never work.

          Besides, he'd be conditioned into associating the screen images of CoD with the inane messaging on the chat, so his subconscious would expose him to the thing he was trying to suppress

    • Or, um, are people with PTSD less likely to play games? That seems to be the most likely scenario to me.

    • by Onuma ( 947856 ) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @10:40AM (#35019596)
      I've had PTSD (combat-related). Glad to say that I haven't had a real problem with it in about 5 years, but even to this day I hear the right kind of *BANG* and have momentary flashbacks of the sh!t I've been through. A door slamming with a loud thud can sound like a mortar exploding in the distance. Seeing a flaming car on the side of the road might remind me of a time when that was a blown-up Humvee.

      You know why it didn't develop into a debilitating problem for me? Diversions, and talking with other soldiers/marines/airmen/sailors who've been in similar situations, if not the same time & place where I nearly got blown up on more than one occasion. No one who hasn't been in a combat zone can comprehend the reality of things; "99% boredom, 1% chaos" is the tip of the iceberg.

      Gaming helped me to put those times in the back of my mind, rather than constantly having to deal with them in the foreground.
      Are gamers more or less susceptible to PTSD? I don't believe so. I think it's just a coping mechanism which can prove to be quite useful in treatment. It's much better than trying to forget through drinking; the worst you'll get is atrophy, vs. a possibly life-threatening addiction and delirium tremens.

      TLDR: Gaming is a good outlet, regardless of what kind of gaming it is. CoD, solitaire, or WoW can all be potentially therapeutic to individuals who may have otherwise developed PTSD.
  • by Dexter Herbivore ( 1322345 ) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @03:43AM (#35017400) Journal
    Gaming can save the world's food crisis by sending people on quests to collect 20 Talbuk ears, the carcass left over afterwards provides a sustainable supply of meat if the respawn rate is high enough.
    • In a decade or two once peak oil has hit and the economies have crashed, we'll all be thanking Farmville for teching people how to grow crops.
  • Soldiers that are able to play games for 3-4 hours might tend to be those that:
    a) spend less time in combat or "PTSD inducing" situations.
    b) are inherently less affected by such stuff _therefore_ they are able to play games rather than spend the rest of the day traumatized or too exhausted to recover properly.

    Too lazy to RTFA :).
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The explanation comes from a previous /. article here

      While I don't argue entirely against your A/B points, The study from the link above suggests differently.


    • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @11:19AM (#35020098) Journal

      I'm not sure you understand the army. Actually judging by half the answers in the thread, lots of people seem to think it's like in their games.

      Some 3-4 hours a day are a lot when you spend 8 hour at your day job, 2 hours commuting so you can live in the right fashionable suburb, and have to balance everything from dealing with the kids to getting the roof fixed in the rest of the time. That's when 3-4 hours a day to spend on gaming starts to be more time than you actually have.

      When you're on some military base at the end of nowhere, and you live right there too, all those factors just don't apply. It's not like those guys spend 16 hours a day shooting at the enemy or standing in guard towers, because even all out war doesn't actually work that way. And also because nobody can resist such a program in the long term. Working 16 hour days is fine for a couple of weeks tops, then you start getting tired and making mistakes.

      Even when you pulled guard duty, actually it doesn't mean camping at that post all day, but pretty much time slicing if I'm allowed a computer metaphor. You spend your time slice at your post, then have the next two time slices free. Even between sleeping, eating, polishing your boots and whatnot, there's one hell of a lot of time free.

      And you're not supposed to check the kids' homework and get the dishwasher fixed and whatnot in that time either.

      Playing 3-4 hours a day isn't going to cut down on your time actually doing your duties.

      Also not the least because, well, your commanding officer isn't like the kind of permissive mommy who's totally not bothered if you skipped tidying your room to play games and expects the politicians to police her kids. Those guys _are_ those policing you there and seeing to it that you obey your orders to the letter.

    • Soldiers that are able to play games for 3-4 hours might tend to be those that spend less time in combat or "PTSD inducing" situations.

      Nah, there's plenty of downtime in combat. War is nothing but long stretches of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.

      Agreed though, there's no demonstration of a causative relationship here. The only way to find out for sure is to send the troops more PSPs!

    • I find myself wanting to reply to discourage you from replying in this form ever again. A list like yours is as stupid as a reply with list of a person's favorite "my little pony" characters.

      If you could cite a source or give some firm background as to why your opinion is relevant, then that's another matter, but you're just spewing crap you thought up in your sad little brain and wasting peoples' time. You're like the pundits on Fox News in this regard.

      FACT: The fact that you can find "other reasons" ju

      • by TheLink ( 130905 )
        If you could cite a source or give some firm background as to why your opinion is relevant, then that's another matter, but you're just spewing crap you thought up in your sad little brain and wasting peoples' time.[1]

        [1] Kashgarinn, Slashdot, Jan 28 2011.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Saving the world by disengaging for 3-4 hours a day? Are you fucking serious? Sitting on your ass not doing anything for 3-4 hours a day means you're less likely to get in trouble? Sitting on your ass for 3-4 hours a day means you're less likely to do anything, positive or negative!

  • There's a good reason why Jane creates games and doesn't practice in any human behavior specialties! You go back to playing and making games Jane and let the pros talk about human behavior! (You don't swim in my pool, I won't swim in yours!)
    • Jane MgGonigal makes games? According to Wikipedia she has a PhD in Performance studies and has made some cute fake websites meant to promote Halo 2. Seems she has taken an interest in computer games after her Halo advertising, has taught game design and believes she knows best the direction of the industry. Looks harmless enough, no more of a crank than most academics in the humanities. I would start worrying if she was given some form of creative control over something I am working on, she seems to have a

  • I have watched the TED talk, I think the point here is using game dynamics and apply them to work to make it more enjoyable and satisfying.

    I had played WoW, I spent hours of my life in there doing things that are for most part can be considered a waste of time.
    A good amount of it was mindless "work" which gave inconsequential rewards.

    I began to wonder why I can't study with the same attitude.

    If we designed education courses like we designed games, with proper difficultly curves, proper effort/reward tuning

  • I've known a few people that have wasted part of their lives in WoW ( 2-6 years ) and I haven't seen 'improvements'. All I've seen is zombie-like behaviour, talking only about the game, grinding to death, spending endless hours waiting for the team to gather in instances, etc etc. And all this so you they say in the end "My armor/level/weapon/pet is bigger/better/cooler than yours - I'm awesome".

    And regarding the virtuoso thing. Virtuosos in ART are a good thing. Why? Because the world benefits. Virtuosos
  • With this approach you are traumatized later, when you receive your Diabetes II diagnosis.

  • I'm sure that if it wasn't for my gaming quite a few hours a day I would already have built a doomsday weapon to annihilate the human race, because you fuckers all deserve to die... oh wait Shogun 2 is coming out?
  • nor will any other touchy, feely crap. What will solve our problems is less people. Wars are fought so group A can take group B's stuff. People go to war to make money. Nobody goes to war if they have better options. Period. No other reason.
    • Ah, I love a healthy dose of, "fuck your hippy bullshit" cynicism in the morning. Thanks! :)
    • I've said basically the same thing myself, "All wars are ultimately about economics". As did Pink Floyd: "With... without... and who'll deny, that's what the fighting's really all about?" Furthermore, I predict the new wars of this century will be fought over water, e.g. between the downstream people on a major river and the upstream people.
  • Make your average person a soldier and put them in a combat situation and see how quickly the PTSD's go up. The video/speech/idea is 99% BS. Think of the video games they were playing: most likely first person shooters--games that desensitize people to killing and death... that's why they were less likely to go sour after seeing rotting corpses at their feet during the day and images of their allies' lives jumping out of their chests in their nightmares. I used to be addicted to Counter-Strike. I used to po
  • Forever Peace, by Joe Haldeman, is, in part, about connecting people with an interface that could be like the gaming interface of the future. Forget about joy stick controllers, Wii tennis, and other mechanical apparatus. Why not just connect people directly through their nervous systems? If we all shared our thoughts this way, what would be the implications?

  • I remember watching North Korea take the field in this most recent World Cup. The crowd was cheering. North Korea, a great annoyance to the world, was being cheered on. The players were crying.


    Because they have rarely, if ever, been out of their country. They could not have expected such love and acceptance from the world they have been taught to hate. And got this experience by playing a game.

    I was so disappointed that they didn't move on past the first round. I was convinced that the longer they staye

  • It's an alright read. I feel like I might enjoy it more if it were written by someone with (not to disparage McGonigal's own track record) some bigger titles under their belt.
  • ...and I have this to say:

    Oh, bullshit.

    [with feeling]

  • So if we can just get all the Israelis and Palestinians to start fragging each other in WoW, they'll suddenly start getting along? Yeah, I've never seen ANYBODY get pissed off at someone else in a MMORPG!
  • I watched her video, because TED talks are often awesome.

    However, her assertions are absurd.

    She states (around 5:00) that when confronted with problems/obstacles in the real world, we often get anxious, depressed, cynical, etc. And that "this never happens in games".

    First, that's simply wrong. Ever been ganked? Repeatedly? Ever raid for hours and some retard in your group just CAN'T stop 'standing in fire' and killing you all, giving up far too late into the night knowing you've just gifted yourself with

  • When she was struggling to recover from a concussion, she invented a game and enlisted friends and family as characters with tasks to fulfill, like coming over to cheer her up or keeping her off caffeine.

    Is she single? If yes I can't imagine why.

  • I 've followed Jane McGonigal since I saw her TED talk and even participated for a short time in her online "MMORPG", Urgent EVOKE. It was very much an online course in Social Innovation styled like a game. You made blog posts, participated in activities, and developed solutions to solve "quests". I recall that the first quest dealt with food security. It was fun, and I truely regret was completing the game. Work and school interferred and EVOKE fell to the wayside.

    I truely hope that the participants,

    • Jane McGonigal may may not have a PhD in game design OR in Human Behavior. However, I think she has a brilliant idea and an amazing dream. ... Where do you get a pass to criticize someone who has taken on changing the world for the better, despite the nearly impossible odds?

      I think the problem most people have with her is that there's not a lot of substance behind the message. I've read a bunch of articles about her, her games, and her ideas, but nothing about if her ideas actually work. I think you'll find a lot of /.ers questioning how a bunch of people on the internet might be able to solve real-world problems that they really have no ability to solve. I watched the TED talk a while ago and she really didn't say anything; like a lot of TED presenters most of it is bullsh

  • Can we stop this gaming saves the world stuff? It's getting old, way old.

    Games that the author/TFA discuss are not tools, but forms of entertainment. Try entertaining a soldier (and even through interactive, entertaining means) and guess what, I bet you get 100%, the same result. Just that games are on computers which means cheaper and maybe faster than having a person do it.

    It's about the entertainment value. The general public does the same everyday by escaping to a movie or something. Games
  • Gaming is definetley a form of interactive entertainment - like reading - as opposed to passive entertainment like watching tv - Like playing sports Vs watching sports; playing sports through gaming for example is more interactive and productive, and benifecial to the mind and body than watching sports from an arm chair. No wonder these positive results for soldiers with stress disorders came through - gaming is highly interactive.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern