Expert talks benefits of gaming


Jane McGonigal urged students to spend more time playing online video games. She stressed the positive effects that playing games have on people.

World-renowned gaming expert Jane McGonigal gave students a seemingly unexpected piece of advice Tuesday night: She urged them to spend more time playing games online.

McGonigal spoke Tuesday night at the Pugh Hall Ocora Room at a forum sponsored by the Bob Graham Center for Public Service.

Her presentation – titled “Are gamers better citizens?” – highlighted the positive effects online gaming has on people’s lives.

About 250 people attended the event and participated in a multiplayer thumb wrestling event.

Based on the number of attendees, McGonigal coined the game a “level-4.5 thumb war.”

The objective of the game was to show attendees some of the emotions gamers experience after playing online games.

McGonigal defined gamers as people who play games regularly, even for five to 10 minutes.

“Gamers experience love, pride, excitement and curiosity, which we then spill into our real lives,” she said.

When you hold somebody’s hand for six seconds your body releases oxytocin, which makes you feel confident, McGonigal said.

“Now you can ask somebody cute near you for their phone number,” she joked.

Gerard Robinson, a 19-year-old applied physiology and kinesiology sophomore, said he liked the use of the thumb-wrestling exercise to meet people.

“We can make a fast and positive connection [through gaming] with people we don’t even know,” Robinson said.

McGonigal, who has a Ph.D. from the University of California-Berkeley, is a leader in the movement to create online games that connect with real-world problems. The most recent game she created, SuperBetter, is designed to increase resilience in the face of illness.

“It was created to get people in sub-Sahara interested in gaming,” McGonigal said. “But it has spread all around.”

McGonigal advised people to see games not as a way to escape but as a way to solve problems and to see life as an “epic game.”

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