Games: Epic mindsets for epic challenges

I recently made a post about Daphne’s Ted Talk about how the brain benefits from video games. I loved that talk but Jane McGonigal’s talk is as good in a different or shall I say more epic way. The things she talks about are just brilliant, go watch the video after reading this. I’ll just briefly list the key points here.

Jane is a game designer, and her goal as she explains in her talk is, to make it as easy and exciting to save the world in real life, as it is in games. I’m awestruck from this idea because our thinking differs so much between the real world and games. Jane sums that difference up in a picture.

This picture was taken by a photographer who wanted to capture the emotion of gamers and it represents the emotions of a so-called “epic win.” Notice the nuances such as optimism, and an intense sense of shock and surprise as the person accomplishes something which was almost on the threshold of imagination. The gamer is shocked by what he is really capable of. This is the face we need to see on millions of problem solvers across the world if we want to tackle the challenges we face. Unfortunately, as Jane explains, the face we see more often instead is that of people who think they are not fit for life and the challenges they are presented with.

We just don’t feel those feelings, anxiety, depression etc when we are playing games. So what is it about games what makes it impossible in games to feel these negative emotions? A big factor is this sense of an epic story and you as a player, capable of making a difference and face whatever comes your way.

Here is how Jane explains something gamers are very good at.

“Think of this like extreme self-motivation. Urgent optimism is the desire to act immediately. To takle an obsticle combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.

Gamers always believe that an epic win is possible, and that it is always worth trying. And trying now.

Blissful productivity is the reason why gamers play so much hours. It is because in the game, we are actually happier doing hard and meaningful work, than we are by relaxing or hanging out.

Epic meaning is something we humans love. Gamers are super-empowered hopeful individuals. These are people who believe that they are invididually capable of changing the world. The only problem is they believe they are capable of changing virtual worlds, and not the real world. That’s the problem that I’m trying to solve.”

Jane McGonial

Jane thinks that we are using games to escape the real world suffering. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can imagine the best-case outcome for our world, and then inspire people to get there, much like in an epic-win-game.

I’m excited by the possibility games present to us. If you want to learn more about the direct benefits of games on our brain, check out my previous post mentioned above.


Also published on Medium.