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Jane McGonigal: Massively multi-player… thumb-wrestling?

Jane McGonigal: Massively multi-player… thumb-wrestling?

 

jane mcgonigal

What happens when you get an entire audience to stand up and connect with one another? Chaos, that’s what. At least, that’s what happened when Jane McGonigal tried to teach TED to play her favorite game. Then again, when the game is “massively multiplayer thumb-wrestling,” what else would you expect?

Reality is broken, says Jane McGonigal, and we need to make it work more like a game. Her work shows us how.

 

WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO HER?

 

Jane McGonigal asks: Why doesn’t the real world work more like an online game? In the best-designed games, our human experience is optimized: We have important work to do, we’re surrounded by potential collaborators, and we learn quickly and in a low-risk environment. In her work as a game designer, she creates games that use mobile and digital technologies to turn everyday spaces into playing fields, and everyday people into teammates. Her game-world insights can explain–and improve–the way we learn, work, solve problems, and lead our real lives. She served as the director of game R&D at the Institute for the Future, and she is the founder of Gameful, which she describes as “a secret headquarters for worldchanging game developers.”

 

Several years ago she suffered a serious concussion, and she created a multiplayer game to get through it, opening it up to anyone to play. In “Superbetter,” players set a goal (health or wellness) and invite others to play with them–and to keep them on track. While most games, and most videogames, have traditionally been about winning, we are now seeing increasing collaboration and games played together to solve problems.

John Seely Brown: Pursuing Passion to Increase Potential

John Seely Brown: Pursuing Passion to Increase Potential

I would rather hire a high-level World of Warcraft player than a NBA from Harvard. Why is a game, a massive multiplayer game that has maybe 12 million people or more playing it like the World of Warcraft so important at both the individual level and maybe at the corporate level?

To understand these massive multiplayer games like World of Warcraft, do not think about it as just game play, but look at the social life on the edge of the game.

On a typical night there will be approximately 15,000 new strategic ideas created about the world. If you want to compete that night or the next day, somehow you have to appropriate in your own play what 15,000 new ideas mean to you in order to go into the high-end raid.

Most of these high-end performance groups in World of Warcraft create guild; you have to have a guild to do anything because it’s fundamentally a collaborative game. These guilds will be sometimes 100, 200 people. Guess what? They don’t have a bonus structure to guide them to incent them. Only passion, only interest works. And what you have to have is find a way to turn this guild structure of several hundred people into knowledge refining groups.

So basically self-organizing to some extent, things start to happen particularly groups go off and say, “I’m going to study this, I’m going to study this, I’m going to try this idea out and by tonight I will have consolidated all this class of ideas about how this particular new magic potion might actually work to re-heal you faster, blah, blah, blah.”

So what we’ve done is we’ve turned this entire kind of social organization into an ideation structure and an idea refinement structure all as more or less self-organizing groups. Show me anything that happens in the corporate world that has 15,000 new strategic ideas. Possibly biotech does, but no world I know about in the corporate world. We think about ten new ideas already overloading us, 10,000 is unthinkable.

When we look in to the social structures and the knowledge capability, refining and generation capabilities of this guild structures, there is something going on here. Now, these are not just self-organizing groups. Basically every high-end guild has a constitution. The leaders of these guilds also have to do dispute adjudication all the time. They also have to be willing to say, “Let’s measure ourselves.”

These guilds are truly meritocracy based. So even if you were the leader of this particular high-end raid, at the end you do an after action review and the after action review each person is open to total criticism by everybody else. You can replay the whole thing because basically its all computer meditated so it can be captured.

But equally interesting to me is you can’t play in these complex worlds without building dashboards. And these are dashboards that are measuring you, are measuring your state of being. They also measure all the things happening around you. Now let’s step back a moment. Every corporate situation I’ve ever been in has dashboards. These dashboards are measurements that are superimposed on you by your manager. So we live in a world of measurement and basically said if it’s not measured it won’t get done. You’ve probably heard that before by many people you discuss. And isn’t it interesting that all those measurements are decided by your boss applied to you?

In World of Warcraft you invent a dashboard for yourself. So this whole idea of thinking about how do I build measurements to facilitate my own performance for me and me alone becomes very interesting. And in fact in the World of Warcraft there’s a simple mantra I encounter all the time. If I ain’t learning, it ain’t fun.

Now let’s think about re-designing the workscape for the 21st century. What does it mean to have each of us in a workscape define our own dashboard, our own source of measurements? Suppose we actually then built little groups whose sole job is to accelerate learning in our particular interest group inside the corporation. How do we start to completely turn the whole notion of what the workspace is about or the workscape I’m going to call it, about into something that becomes a talent accelerator for myself to pick up new ideas, to be able to learn faster with doing things with others and so on and so forth. These are the practices that you’ll pick up in World of Warcraft if you are in one of these high-performing guilds.

And so it is an amazing learning environment with powerful learning tools that I think we in the education world can learn a hell of a lot about and we in the management world can learn a lot about. But it gets back to this notion of passion, it gets back to this notion of curiosity and it gets back to this notion that this is an interest-driven phenomenon that unleashes exponential learning of a dimension that’s almost unimaginable any other way.

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