Jane McGonigal on Saving the World Through Games

I saw Jane McGonigal’s TED talk on gaming last week, and it really just dropped my jaw. I’ve been thinking about it ever since then, and definitely have a drastically different point of view towards games.

Here’s a dizzying number: McGonigal researched and found out that we spend, collectively, about 3 billion hours each and every week playing games online. Her thoughts on that extremely large number? It’s not nearly enough:

Three billion hours a week is not nearly enough gameplay to solve the world’s most urgent problems. In fact, I believe if we want to survive the next century on this planet, we need to increase that total dramatically. I’ve calculated the total we need at 21 billion hours of gameplay, every week.

That’s probably a bit of a counter-intuitive idea, so I’ll just… I’ll say it again, let it sink in.

If we want to solve problems like hunger, poverty, climate change, global conflict, obesity… I believe we need to aspire to play games online for at least 21 billion hours a week by the end of the next decade.

The rest of her talk goes into more detail about why she believes this. And it’s utterly fascinating.

Some other zingers in terms of stats: so far people have been playing World of Warcraft a lot. If you took all the time spent playing that game, putting it back to back, we’ve spent about 5.9 million years playing this game.

Also: the average young person today spends about 10,000 hours playing games before the age of 21. The amount of time a kid spends between 5th grade to high school graduation (assuming perfect attendance) is 10,080 hours. So there’s a parallel track of education happening for young kids, nearly equal to what they learn in middle and high school.

Add in Malcolm Gladwell’s theory on success along with his 10,000-Hour Rule, and those numbers start to look even more interesting.

Here’s her full TED talk:

Also, for a mixture of inspired, thoughtful and snarky reactions… make sure to check out some of the comments at MetaFilter and BoingBoing.

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