Can (online) games save the (real) world?
Video games can change people's lives and may be able to save the world, if we can put them to good use.
This article was originally covered by PRI's The Takeaway. For more, listen to the audio above.
People spend about 3 billion hours every week playing online games, according to Jane McGonigal, author of a new book "Reality is Broken: Why Games Make us Better and How They Can Change the World". Instead of trying to convince people to spend less time playing video games, McGonical is trying to encourage better gaming.
"We have this idea that playing games is a waste of time," McGonical told PRI's The Takeaway, "but actually a decade of recent scientific research shows that playing games is actually one of the most productive ways you can spend your time."
"Games produce this optimism, this more willingness to be resilient in the face of failure. You set higher goals for yourself you're more likely to help others and collaborate," according to McGonical. About 61 percent of CEOs and executives take daily breaks at work to play video games. They say it makes them feel more productive. McGonical says that "surgeons who play video games are less likely to make mistakes than those who don't."
Now, McGonical and others are trying to take online games to the next level of productivity. They're trying to create games "that have real problems embedded in them, problems like coming up with new medicines to treat cancer, or social actions to end poverty or global hunger."
The idea is to connect online games with real, world-changing efforts. People have shown that they're willing to work hard online, spending hours to solve complex problems. Now, according to McGonical, "we just need reality to catch up with the kinds of tasks that we're being asked to do online."
"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what's ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.