I have had my fair share of “discussions” with my husband over the years about all of the things that he should be doing rather than playing video games… yard work, home work (back when we were still in college), pretty much any kind of work -- anything but playing silly games.

Then, last spring I attended the SXSW Interactive, a festival in Austin Texas about emerging technologies where I heard Jane McGonigal speak for the first time and she changed some of my strong opinions about video games. I thought, maybe my husband is a better person because of all of the games that he has played.  

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McGonigal said some incredibly amazing things about the possibility of saving the world in real life, in the same way that we do in games. She quoted some impressive statistics; did you know that we play online games three billion hours per week?!  (Check out a Jane McGonigal TED speech). How and why do people spend so much time playing games? There are a lot of reasons, here are a few:

  • We are better in games than we are at real life
  • Games come with inspiring stories
  • Games inspire us to collaborate
  • In games, it’s satisfying to stick with a problem to solve it
  • You want to get up after a failure and try again
  • You feel as though you can achieve anything

As she talked, I was inspired. If we could integrate this gaming mentality into education and online training, imagine the possibilities. Online training lends well to gaming, as much of the same technology is already integrated – learners are already online, content is often Flash-driven, and there is already a set of users embarking on the same training adventures at the same time. My mind was reeling just thinking of the possibilities.

Then… she went on to talk about solving the world’s problems such as poverty, climate change, and global conflict using games. Whoa! Now that was a little intense for me, as I am fairly practical, so I questioned this crazy pipe dream about whether we could really change the world with games. Training, yes. The world – wasn’t sold on that quite yet.

Fast forward six months, when I see this headline on my news home page: Gamers solve molecular puzzle that baffled scientists. What? It’s working! Collaborative online gaming environments are a powerful source.

If gaming can have this kind of impact in the world of science, solving training and education with games should be fairly simple, right?

 

Photo credit: Ian D on Flickr

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