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Jane McGonigal's Thousand-Year Long Video Game to Save the World

Jane McGonigal trumpets a future where collaborative online environments like World of Warcraft solve problems like poverty, famine, and conflict.

Jane McGonigal wants to make it as easy to save the world in real life as it is easy to save in online games. She estimates we spend 3 billion hours a week gaming. Here's the kicker, she says we ought to collectively spend 18 billion hours more in front of our screens. That, she announced in her TED talk of last year, is the amount of global video gaming hours it will take to solve the world's biggest problems.

Essentially, McGonigal trumpets a future where collaborative online environments—like World of Warcraft (where humans have spent 6 million cumulative years attending to that virtual world's challenges)—will be put to work solving problems like poverty, famine, and conflict. All we need is to give all those virtuoso gamers a "heroic purpose."

Mother Jones' Dave Gilson seems underwhelmed by McGonigal's big idea.

McGonigal's ultimate fantasy is to create a 1,000-year-long game played by every single person on the planet, "achieving a new scale of cooperation, coordination, and cocreation."

What might this "Long Game" look like, and how would it suck in several billion players? McGonigal offers no solid answers, but she's sure that one-world gamer-ment will fix everything: "When every family in the remote villages of Africa, or in what today are the slums of India, or throughout Nicaragua—when they and everyone else in the world has access to The Long Game, that will mean greater access to education, culture, and economic opportunity as well."


With the release of her new book Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better And How They Can Change The World, get ready for more optimistic exuberance. She just penned a piece in The Wall Street Journal.

What do you think, does gaming hold major untapped potential for social good?

image (cc) Flickr user Joi

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