Save the world with video games?

Ever since PD started learning to program, he’s been planning his video game company.
This weekend, I told PD I wanted to watch a talk about video games with him, but he was reluctant, saying “It’s just going to say video games are terrible.”
And I said, “I’ve been your mother for 14 years. Would you please trust me?”

So he came and watched. And we watched this TED talk by Jane McGonigal, who thinks the way to solve world problems is by creating and playing a lot more video games.

Why? Because when you are playing a collaborative online game, you have an opportunity to lead an important mission, to have lots of collaborators at hand, and to be confident of success. She talks about “urgent optimism,” for example, as one of the skills gamers develop. In this more recent NPR story, she discusses real world problems that have been solved via games.

It’s a fascinating concept, although she doesn’t address issues such as addiction to video games, or health issues around many hours in sedentary screen staring.

PD’s reaction? He said it was interesting. Then he said, “Can I play games for the rest of the day now?”

Please let me know what you think. Is it going too far to say playing games can solve serious problems, or is this a viable plan to tackle our issues?


  1. I thought this was interesting. I wouldn’t say playing games alone can save the world, but I’m open to her idea that gaming can be one resource (among others, like science and education). I also think her idea that gamers are developing useful skills is powerful. I think this msg alone could be empowering to young 20 somethings who have lost their way in the game world. I have seen the problem of game addiction first hand – with young men who cannot make the leap to independence for a variety of reasons that include depression, adhd and gaming. Her suggestion that gaming operates as an escape resonates in those scenarios esp.

    I don’t think any of that means we should encourage our kids to play more games, but rather, simply that we should recognize people who excel at problem solving games as potentially having an identifiable skill set. If we can do that, we can encourage those people to pursue career paths, and get other appropriate training to maximize that skill set. For example, someone with “urgent optimism” etc. would be even better at playing the “world’s out of oil” game if they had a degree in geology, or urban planning, no?

    so tell your son to do his homework too! 🙂

    (and thanks for this – it was a really interesting piece).

    • Hi Deb,
      I like that idea that this message could be “empowering to those 20 somethings who have lost their way in the game world.”
      Since video games have become so huge and take up so much time for some people, I do like to try to find what might be positive in them. Although I haven’t yet come across any that I enjoy playing.
      And yes – still yelling at the son to do his homework! He only got one more hour for games, as a reward for watching the video and being my consultant. Still not convinced a half-time job paying video games would be healthy for him, even if it could save the world.

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