SuperBetter and the gaming advantage

Jane McGonigal promotes videogames as problem-solving tools at the Presidential Lecture, Oct. 22.

Jeanette Blain | News Editor | [email protected]
Photo credit: Jessica McClellan

In the Ragan Theatre, Oct. 22, she told a packed house how gaming makes people more engaged, resilient and better at solving problems.

McGonigal is a game designer and author of the popular books, Reality is Better and SuperBetter. Her research has led her to develop games that help people approach real-life problems with a gaming mindset.

She said people are spending more and more time playing games each year, which some people see as a bad thing. She sees it as a positive thing.

Every year, she said, the typical Call of Duty player spends the equivalent of a month of full-time work gaming. She believes that syphoning even a fraction of that time toward productive gaming could lead to innovative solutions to world problems.

This collective intelligence can add up to something bigger.

“You can learn more from asking ordinary people what they would do and aggregating the information than you can learn from experts,” she said.

One reason that people are so drawn to gaming is engagement.

McGonigal said 81 percent of people with jobs are not engaged at the workplace. This means they don’t feel connected or a sense of purpose in a setting where they spend most of their time.

She said there are ten positive feelings, evoked by gaming, that help people feel engaged. The most important of which is the feeling of creative agency. This, she said, is the ability to make decisions that impact what happens.

Video games give players the permission to experiment, invent new strategies, explore, make mistakes and learn. These positive feelings can, in turn, help people feel more determined, optimistic and ambitious not just when they are playing, but in real-life situations.

“Even if they have a trauma, the ability to evoke those ten positive emotions gives them incredible mental, emotional and social resilience,” she said.

McGonigal’s talk was part of UVU’s Presidential Lecture series. President Holland said that her research compliments the core values and administrative imperatives of UVU.

“We have become a SuperBetter university. Our resilience allowed us to weather our countries economic downturn, the LDS missionary age-change and state funding cuts over the last several years,” Holland said.

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