Yes, you read that right. According to Jane McGonigal, we as a people need to play online games for 21 billion hours per week in order to solve the world’s problems. Real problems, too, not silly things like making sure Simon Cowell stays on for another season of American Idol. We’re talking poverty, having access to clean water and healthy food, climate change, obesity, global conflict, etc. The real deal. Hey, this is McGonigal talking, not me. I’m fine with using World of Warcraft as nothing more than a giant time sink.
The talk, which occurred at TED last month, begins with a photo of a gamer on the verge of an “epic win.” Now, I’m the last guy to promote the use of the word “epic” outside of Ancient Greek literature class, but McGonigal uses it to make the point that what we need in the world is more “epic win” passion and less “woe is me” apathy. Fair enough, yes.
Then she goes on, saying that the reason why people play World of Warcraft so much is that, frankly, it’s better than real life. There’s no unemployment in WoW; there’s always hides to collect, ore to mine, and potions to create. It’s a world where people learn to cooperate with each other for the greater good, as alien as that may sound to our American readers. Bootstraps and all that.
In other words, online gaming helps people evolve.
Not exactly what you think of when you and your Blu teammates take out those Red jerks.
I’ll leave you with a question that McGonigal asks a little bit into it: What exactly are gamers getting good at? (Please, tell me, so I can put it on my resumé. Somehow “Ten Level 80s” doesn’t seem like an impressive bullet point (not that I have ten level 80s, of course).
Of course, McGonigal actually goes into how having ten level 80s shows how dedicated you are to your work, provided the incentives are there. The World of Warcraft incentive is, I think, “be bad ass,” while the IRL incentive could be “help my company produce the best widget as possible” or whatever the case may be.