Yes you’ve read it right, video games are lifesavers. I’m not saying it, Jane McGonigal is in her book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World (2012).
Why do I care ? Because I am an avid gamer and have been since I was a kid and started playing on my brother’s Thomson MO6 and Atari ST (retrogamers will know what I’m talking about) and I’ve heard it all about video games, how they cause violence, how they are addictive, and the cause of all the problems our youth is facing today 😉 I’m not trying to start a debate here). But i also care and want to share her journey because she is once again a great example of how you can embrace your multiple interests and build your life and career around them.
So I guess you’re wondering who she is and why she is saying videogames can save lives. Jane McGonigal is a game designer, of course, but she is not any game designer. She is a game designer with a purpose. She designs “alternate reality games — or, games that are designed to improve real lives and solve real problems.” As her website’s bio states, “she believes game designers are on a humanitarian mission — and her #1 goal in life is to see a game developer win a Nobel Peace Prize.”
So if you take a look at her resume, she is a regular girl. According to her Wikipedia page, she received her BA in English from Fordham University in 1999, and her PhD in performance studies from the University of California, Berkeley in 2006. Ever since her childhood she was a gamer. She spent endless hours on the family’s Commodore 64. But not only a player, Jane created her own games too, mostly board games. As her identical twin sister Kelly confided to a ELLE journalist, “That’s a hallmark of a “Jane game. She gets people to do really strange things—and they feel like that was the coolest thing in the world.” as Jane herself confided to ELLE, even back then, “I liked organizing experiences for people…. I liked that you could take a bunch of people and they’d have this experience together and get excited. Maybe it’s because I was geeky, but I liked that people who wouldn’t ordinarily talk or be nice to each another would be on the same team.”
This interest for games, but she first started at a “regular”, editing at a dotcom company where she was not happy. Her interest for games comes a long way back and her career change has been triggered by her sister asking her what she liked to do when she was a kid. Her answer? “Making up games and giving motivational speeches, But that’s not a career! Who does that?”
This was not an easy change, and it took a lot of twists and turns (you can read the full length Elle article here). But what you have to remember is that she did manage to combine her interests for games and her focus on social innovation into a life and career she loves.
You can watch more about her work on this TED video:
She also built upon her own experience to create a game she cared about. You can learn more about this games’ story in this video :
I’d like to finish this post with another extract from Elle’s interview. Jane said: “I don’t see it as my path, because I’m not the best game designer in the world. I want the best game designers in the world to make games that unleash the power of people to do something extraordinary. I’d like to see people who invent the greatest games of our time—World of Warcraft, Super Mario, Angry Birds—turn to this field. Every game designer should make one explicitly world-changing game. Lawyers do pro bono work,” she says, so “why can’t we?”
So yes everybody is doing it, I mean having multiple careers. Why not you?
What do you think ? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
You can also check out her website: http://janemcgonigal.com/