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  • I'm Jane McGonigal. I'm a game designer.

  • I've been making games online now for 10 years,

  • and my goal for the next decade

  • is to try to make it as easy

  • to save the world in real life

  • as it is to save the world in online games.

  • Now, I have a plan for this,

  • and it entails convincing more people,

  • including all of you, to spend more time

  • playing bigger and better games.

  • Right now we spend three billion hours a week

  • playing online games.

  • Some of you might be thinking,

  • "That's a lot of time to spend playing games.

  • Maybe too much time, considering

  • how many urgent problems we have to solve in the real world."

  • But actually, according to my research

  • at The Institute For The Future,

  • it's actually the opposite is true.

  • Three billion hours a week is not nearly enough

  • game play to solve the world's most urgent problems.

  • In fact, I believe that 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 game play every week.

  • So, that's probably a bit of a counterintuitive idea,

  • so 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 that we need to aspire

  • to play games online

  • for at least 21 billion hours a week,

  • by the end of the next decade. (Laughter)

  • No. I'm serious. I am.

  • Here's why. This picture pretty much

  • sums up why I think games are so essential

  • to the future survival of the human species. (Laughter) Truly.

  • This is a portrait by a photographer named Phil Toledano.

  • He wanted to capture the emotion of gaming,

  • so he set up a camera in front of gamers while they were playing.

  • And this is a classic gaming emotion.

  • Now, if you're not a gamer,

  • you might miss some of the nuance in this photo.

  • You probably see the sense of urgency,

  • a little bit of fear, but intense concentration,

  • deep, deep focus on tackling a really difficult problem.

  • If you are a gamer, you will notice

  • a few nuances here: the crinkle of the eyes up, and around the mouth

  • is a sign of optimism,

  • and the eyebrows up is surprise.

  • This is a gamer who is on the verge of something called

  • an epic win.

  • (Laughter)

  • Oh, you've heard of that. OK, good,

  • so we have some gamers among us.

  • An epic win is an outcome

  • that is so extraordinarily positive

  • you had no idea it was even possible until you achieved it.

  • It was almost beyond the threshold of imagination.

  • And when you get there you are shocked

  • to discover what you are truly capable of. That is an epic win.

  • This is a gamer on the verge of an epic win.

  • And this is the face that we need to see

  • on millions of problem-solvers all over the world

  • as we try to tackle the obstacles of the next century --

  • the face of someone who, against all odds

  • is on the verge of an epic win.

  • Now, unfortunately this is more of the face that we see

  • in everyday life now as we try to tackle urgent problems.

  • This is what I call the "I'm Not Good At Life" face,

  • and this is actually me making it. Can you see? Yes. Good.

  • This is actually me making the "I'm Not Good At Life" face.

  • This is a piece of graffiti in my old neighborhood

  • in Berkeley, California, where I did my PhD

  • on why we're better in games than we are in real life.

  • And this is a problem that a lot of gamers have.

  • We feel that we are not as good in reality as we are in games.

  • And I don't mean just good as in successful,

  • although that's part of it.

  • We do achieve more in game worlds. But I also

  • mean good as in

  • motivated to do something that matters,

  • inspired to collaborate and to cooperate.

  • And when we're in game worlds

  • I believe that many of us become

  • the best version of ourselves, the most likely to help at a moment's notice,

  • the most likely to stick with a problem

  • as long at it takes, to get up after failure and try again.

  • And in real life, when we face failure,

  • when we confront obstacles, we often don't feel that way.

  • We feel overcome,

  • we feel overwhelmed,

  • we feel anxious, maybe depressed, frustrated or cynical.

  • We never have those feelings when we're playing games,

  • they just don't exist in games.

  • So, that's what I wanted to study

  • when I was a graduate student.

  • What about games makes it impossible

  • to feel that we can't achieve everything?

  • How can we take those feelings from games

  • and apply them to real-world work?

  • So, I looked at games like World of Warcraft,

  • which is really the ideal collaborative problem-solving environment.

  • And I started to notice a few things

  • that make epic wins so possible in online worlds.

  • So, the first thing is whenever you show up in one of these online games,

  • especially in World of Warcraft,

  • there are lots and lots of different characters

  • who are willing to trust you with a world-saving mission, right away.

  • But not just any mission, it's a mission that is perfectly matched

  • with your current level in the game. Right?

  • So, you can do it.

  • They never give you a challenge that you can't achieve.

  • But it is on the verge of what you're capable of. So, you have to try hard,

  • but there's no unemployment in World of Warcraft.

  • There is no sitting around wringing your hands,

  • there's always something specific and important to be done.

  • And there are also tons of collaborators.

  • Everywhere you go, hundreds of thousands of people

  • ready to work with you

  • to achieve your epic mission.

  • That's not something that we have in real life that easily,

  • this sense that at our fingertips

  • are tons of collaborators.

  • And also there is this epic story, this inspiring story

  • of why we're there, and what we're doing.

  • And then we get all this positive feedback.

  • You guys have heard of leveling up and plus-one strength,

  • and plus-one intelligence.

  • We don't get that kind of constant feedback in real life.

  • When I get off this stage I'm not going to have

  • plus-one speaking, and plus-one crazy idea,

  • plus-20 crazy idea.

  • I don't get that feedback in real life.

  • Now, the problem with collaborative online environments

  • like World of Warcraft

  • is that it's so satisfying

  • to be on the verge of an epic win all the time

  • that we decide to spend all our time in these game worlds.

  • It's just better than reality.

  • So, so far, collectively all the World of Warcraft gamers

  • have spent 5.93 million years

  • solving the virtual problems of Azeroth.

  • Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

  • It might sound like it's a bad thing.

  • But to put that in context:

  • 5.93 million years ago

  • was when our earliest primate human ancestors stood up.

  • That was the first upright primate.

  • Okay, so when we talk about how much time we're currently investing

  • in playing games, the only way it makes sense

  • to even think about it is to talk about time

  • at the magnitude of human evolution,

  • which is an extraordinary thing.

  • But it's also apt. Because it turns out

  • that by spending all this time playing games,

  • we're actually changing what we

  • are capable of as human beings.

  • We are evolving to be a more collaborative and hearty species.

  • This is true. I believe this.

  • So, consider this really interesting statistic;

  • it was recently published by a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University:

  • The average young person today

  • in a country with a strong gamer culture

  • will have spent 10,000 hours playing online games

  • by the age of 21.

  • Now 10,000 hours is a really

  • interesting number for two reasons.

  • First of all, for children in the United States

  • 10,080 hours is the exact amount of time

  • you will spend in school

  • from fifth grade to high school graduation

  • if you have perfect attendance.

  • So, we have an entire

  • parallel track of education going on

  • where young people are learning as much about

  • what it takes to be a good gamer

  • as they are learning about everything else in school.

  • And some of you have probably read

  • Malcolm Gladwell's new book "Outliers."

  • So, you would have heard of his theory of success,

  • the 10,000 hour theory of success.

  • It's based on this great cognitive science research

  • that if we can master 10,000 hours

  • of effortful study at anything

  • by the age of 21, we will be virtuosos at it.

  • We will be as good at whatever we do

  • as the greatest people in the world.

  • And so, now what we're looking at

  • is an entire generation of young people

  • who are virtuoso gamers.

  • So, the big question is,

  • "What exactly are gamers getting so good at?"

  • Because if we could figure that out,

  • we would have a virtually unprecedented

  • human resource on our hands.

  • This is how many people we now have in the world

  • who spend at least an hour a day playing online games.

  • These are our virtuoso gamers,

  • 500 million people who are extraordinarily good at something.

  • And in the next decade

  • we're going to have another billion gamers

  • who are extraordinarily good at whatever that is.

  • If you don't know it already, this is coming.

  • The game industry is developing consoles

  • that are low energy and that work with the wireless phone networks

  • instead of broadband Internet

  • so that gamers all over the world,

  • particularly in India, China, Brazil, can get online.

  • They expect one billion more gamers in the next decade.

  • It will bring us up to 1.5 billion gamers.

  • So, I've started to think about what these games

  • are making us virtuosos at.

  • Here are the four things I came up with. The first is urgent optimism.

  • OK, think of this as extreme self-motivation.

  • Urgent optimism is the desire to act immediately

  • to tackle an obstacle,

  • combined with the belief

  • that we have a reasonable hope of success.

  • Gamers always believe that an epic win is possible,

  • and that it is always worth trying, and trying now.

  • Gamers don't sit around.

  • Gamers are virtuosos at weaving a tight social fabric.

  • There's a lot of interesting research that shows

  • that we like people better after we play a game with them,

  • even if they've beaten us badly.

  • And the reason is, it takes a lot of trust

  • to play a game with someone.

  • We trust that they will spend their time with us,

  • that they will play by the same rules,

  • value the same goal, they'll stay with the game until it's over.

  • And so, playing a game together actually builds up

  • bonds and trust and cooperation.

  • And we actually build stronger social relationships as a result.

  • Blissful productivity. I love it.

  • You know there's a reason why the average World of Warcraft gamer

  • plays for 22 hours a week,

  • kind of a half-time job.

  • It's because we know, when we're playing a game,

  • that we're actually happier

  • working hard than we are relaxing, or hanging out.

  • We know that we are optimized, as human beings,

  • to do hard meaningful work.

  • And gamers are willing to work hard

  • all the time, if they're given the right work.

  • Finally: epic meaning.