Gamers our future saviors? What? Those men-boys that live in their mother's basement and haven't seen the sun in weeks? Ok... you have me listening.
Jane McGonigal has a wild theory, that we can channel gamer's drive for an "epic win" to solving real world problems. Gamers spend billions of hours a week playing their online games, saving fictional realms, and helping strangers in need. Jane wants to know, can we harness this drive? Can we create games that require us to come up with creative solutions to everyday problems? Will people really carry their game-world habits to the real world?
I think this is a creative and out-there solution-- that just might work. But I still have my doubts. Yes, people tend to be completely different when playing as their online avatar. Yes, they are willing to risk their lives for another. Yes, they spend hours on quests because the work is "just right" (to borrow a phrase from our Scarlett friends)- problems are presented to us, but only when we have enough experience to make it through the level. If we die, we can start over. If we run out of credits, weapons, or money- we can reload.
That doesn't happen in real life. There is a finite amount of resources that the world needs to share. People from different countries have different motivations and interests. I would love to say that we can all work together to create a world that is beneficial to all, but, we are human. There is greed in the world. People will fight for power. There will be conflicts over how to divide supplies and power. Religion, philosophy, beliefs, etc. will create conflicts. Game designers can try to design the playing field in the game, but when the gamers emerge from their basements, the real world won't have level playing fields.
Gamers can create deep relationships online, but then have trouble interacting with people in real life. Wouldn't it be a better idea to try and create the sense of security that the online world offers, but in the real world? We can't live our lives completely online. We can't have designers giving us perfectly designed situations for every problem. We don't live in a vacuum.
In the end, I think Jane McGonical has an interesting theory. But I would tweak it a bit. Research has been done (for example, Bronson and Merryman in Nuture Shock), that shows people are more confident when role-playing, we can blame mistakes on the character we are playing. How about we role play in live sessions? From the classroom to a club to the workplace, we can integrate these role playing techniques to help solve problems we face in our everyday life.