Yesterday i introduced you to Jane McGonigal, and i make no apology for staying with her today – because i think there is some innovative thinking that is deserving of the widest possible audience. Yep… another 30 minutes of your life, please!
Perhaps you weren’t convinced that the application of gaming theory to everyday life is as beneficial as has been suggested. You may even be thinking that much of the theory is plain common sense and the links between game-styled thinking and longevity are, at best, somewhat tenuous. That’s fair enough, and you’re entitled to your opinions, and i wouldn’t expect you to accept anything without some concrete proof of its veracity, (although i’d also say that concrete proof can be a rare commodity at times). It is, unsurprisingly, difficult to measure positive factors leading to increased life satisfaction and, for that matter our own lifespan – we might well take on board Superbetter daily, but without knowing how long we’ve been allotted to walk this earth, we’re never going to know whether we’ve gained that extra 10 years. Perhaps the best maxim is to live each day as if it’s our last… but isn’t that what Jane McGonigal is saying, albeit with a slightly different slant?
So, the jury may well be out on the personal benefits of playing games, (and we’ll include sl here – whether or not you want to define it as a game – it certainly includes a whole raft of gameplay elements), but what about the wider, social benefits that may arise from gaming? Yes, you did read that correctly – despite the commonly held view that those who spend a significant amount of time embroiled in virtual worlds and MMORPGs are all antisocial troglodytes with pasty skin and little concept of what it means to live an ‘ordinary’ life in the ‘real world’, i beg to differ. The way in which games have evolved from the earliest days of text-based adventure games and strategies shared over Usenet groups to the massive complexity, rich content and diversity of the games that you’ll find on Steam and other online communities today, is deeply rooted in the utilisation and employment of social skills.
The evolution of games – and i’ll just stick with computer/online gaming, for simplicity – could never have happened if it were not for the ability of their progenitors to collaborate, network and empathise with their peers in a whole range of diverse skills: Problem solving, education and learning, constructive criticism, team-building, change-management, coaching and mentoring, engineering, reverse engineering and, technical writing… the list could go on, and on! Working together in this manner, games have developed exponentially in every area and, without such a collaborative, collective, world-wide effort that has involved everyone from the spotty geek kid in his bedroom to multi-billion dollar concerns, it could never have happened.
If i consider my own progress through sl, i would not be where i am today if i’d not had the benefit of the same socially-aware environment – that is, one that is supportive of the wider community. Without the sl Wiki, blogs and technical guides and videos created by Linden Lab and ordinary residents alike, i wouldn’t know half the things i do now, neither would i be able to gain as much from the virtual world as i do. Without the support, encouragement, wise words and advice of other residents, my SLife would have been very different, and without having the privilege of standing on the shoulders of sl giants from both the past and the present, i would never have achieved a great many of the things that i have today.
Games themselves mirror this same process. Today’s online games, especially, require the collective energy of their participants to form alliances, work together and collaborate to solve problems and progress towards their goals, even to the extent of creating new content and challenges, that others can then enjoy.
It is precisely these sort of social, collaborative skills that the real world needs if we are to solve the difficult and complex problems that face us today. i’ve mentioned this before and signposted you to Rhonda Lowry/Grace McDonough, (oops, there goes another 20 minutes!). All those hours spent problem solving, finding unique and novel ways to develop storylines and scenarios online and working together with others to defeat seemingly unstoppable enemies and impassable obstacles are exactly the same skills we need to creatively combat the very real problems of the real world. So, don’t knock the geek in his bedroom… he might just hold the solution to world poverty.
i’ve said enough, so i’ll pass you over to a real expert, and let Jane McGonigal explain the amazing wealth of potential we have at our disposal.
“I never am really satisfied that I understand anything; because, understand it well as I may, my comprehension can only be an infinitesimal fraction of all I want to understand about the many connections and relations which occur to me”