On Friday evening, New York Times bestselling author Jane McGonigal spoke about her book Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World in the Continental Ballroom of the Marvin Center.
McGonigal’s book was the selection for this year’s First Chapter reading program for incoming freshmen.
Derek Malone-France, Executive Director of the University Writing program at GW, introduced McGonigal. “She believes game designers are on a humanitarian mission and hopes that a game designer will win the Nobel Peace Prize,” Malone-France said.
Decked out in a glitter-covered cardigan and skirt, the thirty-five year old author eagerly approached the dais announcing, “We get to spend an entire hour taking games seriously!”
Throughout her address, McGonigal discussed the vast amount of neurological research on gaming. “The opposite of game play is really depression,” McGonigal explained.
Additionally, McGonigal cited studies that show that children going into surgery playing a handheld game require the least amount of treatment after surgery and that soldiers who play games three to four hours a day have the lowest rates of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Adding an interactive component to her speech, McGonigal had the entire audience participate in a networked version of thumb-war to illustrate her proceeding points about gaming.
“It’s way more epic than normal thumb wrestling,” she said. Once audience members sat down after our spirited battles, she highlighted the ten most commonly felt emotions (joy, relief, love, surprise, pride, curiosity, excitement, awe and wonder, contentment, and creativity) during gaming, describing the visible display of such emotions on audience members’ faces during the activity.
McGonigal also talked about a game she had designed in conjunction with the New York Public Library, getting thousands of young (under forty, based on the NYPL’s standards) people to camp out in the library for one night, research hundreds of historical documents, and put together a book that the library now keeps in its famous Rare Books section.
“Every time I design a game, I think: how can I change a gamer’s life?”
Notable audience members included Dr. Steven Lerman, the university’s Provost,
and his wife, who graciously offered to foot the bill for students desiring a copy of