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TIES 14 Notes: Jane McGonigal Keynote-Games to Tackle Real-World Problems

Noted Game designer and author, Jane McGonigal was the Tuesday Keynote speaker at TIES 2014
The daughter of educators, she started by inviting us to take the next 45 minutes to take games seriously, as a way to shape the future of learning.

The GOOD News, there are now 1 Billion Gamers world wide (1 hr./day). Some might argue that 1 Billion hours of gaming per day may not be a good idea... 300 million minutes/day is spent playing Angry Birds. That's 400,000 years! 1 in 4 Call of Duty players call in sick the day a new version is released!

81% of global workers are not engaged in the workplace. (Gallup, 2013) Not connected to a community bigger than yourself, and not optimistic.
The longer you stay in school, the LESS ENGAGED you become!

52% of Americans do not feel they have the power to make a difference, yet 7+ Billion hours of time is spent playing games, McGonigal argues because they are looking for something.

99% of boys and 94% of girls spend an hour gaming. We've closed the gender gap! 92% of 2 year olds are playing games. What is the appeal?

McGonigal has spent over a decade exploring how games can help us increase engagement to solve real life problems.

The top 10 emotions when playing games include:

  • Joy
  • Relief
  • Curiousity
  • Love
  • Surprise
  • Pride
  • Excitement
  • Awe and Wonder
  • Contentment
  • Creativity

3/4 of gaming hours today are based on team/cooperative games. This could be quality time spent together.

These emotions on average impact people even 24 hours after they are initially felt. Positive emotions make us resilient!

McGonigal showed a portrait series of people playing games that showed how they were engaged and resilient while playing them. She notes that the images show that game playing requires hard work, and is not necessarily the "lazy" misnomer that people attribute to gaming.
In games, you can fail 4 out of 5 times, and still have the optimism that you can succeed. Wouldn't it be great if these were the faces of students learning?!

The opposite of play isn't's depression!
-Brian Sutton Smith
 There is new research that shows that this statement is true at the neurocognitive level! The same areas of the brain that are active when playing games are the same that are inactive when people are depressed!

She showed a game where the player goes through the human body to fight lukemia, called Re-Misison2 from Hope Lab. The goal was for people undergoing treatment to play the game as a way to encourage them to monitor their health and take the medication. 

They found that these people had +16% more antibiotics, +41% higher blood chemo levels, and much greater self-efficacy after playing the game 6 months after playing the game. These kids were highly motivated, but the positive emotions they earned through playing the game enhanced that motivation.
Researchers at Stanford identified that it's not the technology/graphics/story and sound, it was the control of the game that had the most neurological benefit. This is important to remember for education. Students need to be the ones playing and in charge! (This ties closely to my philosophy of digital age learning-It's not what the teacher is doing with the technology, it's what the student is doing that will have the biggest impact!) The Stanford study showed higher motivation AND learning through the interactive play.

Almost all games create this neurochemistry. Video games are higher due to the faster feedback. ALL GAMES are LEARNING GAMES!
If we stop learning a game, we stop playing them! How many adults play tic-tac-toe?

McGonigal hopes for Super-Empowered Individuals who are developing the neurochemistry to be more engaged with their goals, and more motivated to learn! 

I don’t think education is about centralized instruction anymore; rather, it is the process establishing oneself as a node in a broad network of distributed creativity.-Joi Ito (NY Times)
McGonigal shared Foldit, solving puzzles for science, which isn't as complicated as Words with Friends or Angry Birds, but not as hard as World of Warcraft.

50,000 Gamers beat Supercomputers in solving the folding of protien structures. All of the gamers were listed as authors of the Nature Journal paper. Nice resume builder!
When Scientists Fail, It's Time to Call the Gamers!
McGonigal encourages students to get involved, and use their real names, so that if and when they win the Nobel Prize, they will get credit! Their are many games for science like Foldit, that she encourages teachers to check out!

McGonigal noted that it is still important to be in physical spaces, especially ones that are "awe-inspiring," as you are more creative and productive! She developed a game for the New York Public Library, Find the Future

82% of young Americans want to write a book someday! The game is designed to help inspire students to use the New York Public Library to do this. There are 8 stories of books below street level in the library! 
10,000 people applied for the first 500 spots to get in the game! The game was playable at the library for a full year. Mostly high school and college students participated. Friday night, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. people were locked in and couldn't leave till they wrote a book! They looked for objects/artifacts that changed history that they then used phones to scan QR codes that showed secrets about the objects, like the paragraph abolishing slavery in the Declaration of Independence, that Jefferson's colleagues had him strike.
Students then had writing challenges for each artifact, that required collaboration among the players. By the end, 500 authors created 1184 stories!

McGonigal sees this type of game-based learning is the future, where students can actually make a difference. These changes may start in Higher Education, but could trickle down to K-12.


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