Jane McGonigal: The Psychology of Gaming (#101) | The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish

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Key Takeaways

  • All video games you love can have a great impact on you
    • Make you better at learning new things
    • Teach you to adapt to changing circumstances
    • Develop a growth mindset
    • Improve decision-making 
  • Different games for different benefits
    • Single-player games help focus attention and manage anxiety
    • Multiplayer games help people get more social support in their lives
  • Warning signs to watch out for to avoid kids’ addiction or harmful behaviors
    • If your kid plays more than 20 hours per week
    • If an increase in gameplay happens during an increase in real-life problem
  • Having kids talk about how they improved in games helps them transfer those skills in life
    • It also helps to see games as tools for growth
    • People who do this don’t become escapist gamers
  • Playing games that peers play helps to bond and build social confidence
  • We should allow kids to follow their natural curiosity and build on their strengths
    • “The really resilient kids are going to be the ones who know how to follow their passion, teach themselves and build their own sense of motivation” Jane McGonigal
  • Gamification is often used as a trick to get people to do things they don’t want to
    • We should make games that motivate people to do things they want to do but feel outside of their reach

Intro

  • Jane McGonigal, Ph.D. (@avantgame) is a world-renowned designer of games designed to improve real lives. She is best known for creating SuperBetter, a game that has helped more than a million players tackle real-life health challenges such as depression, anxiety, and traumatic brain injury.
  • Host: Shane Parrish (@ShaneAParrish)
  • Shane and Jane discuss how video games help with decision making, post-traumatic growth as well as how much is too much, what to watch out for and so much more

The Positive Sides of Gaming

  • We shouldn’t trivialize games as just escapism or pastimes
  • All videogames you love can have a great impact on you
    • Make you better at learning new things
    • Teach you to adapt to changing circumstances
      • They are designed to continuously challenge you
    • Build confidence in your ability to improve
      • Develop a growth mindset
  • Improving decision-making through gaming
    • Games teach you to think about the 2nd and 3rd order consequences of your actions
    • You learn to hold different timelines of possible scenarios in your head (chess players are great at this)
    • Choosing to play a video game is a decision
      • Asking yourself why you are playing helps you develop clarity around your decisions
  • Different games for different benefits
    • Single-player games help focus attention and manage anxiety
    • Multiplayer games help people get more social support in their lives
      • As work becomes remote and interactions get virtual, these games prepare us for the future of work (remote collaboration)
      • Gamer kids adapted better when remote learning was imposed on them
  • If you’ve been traumatized and have a hard time sleeping, playing games before bed can help

How Should Parents Think About Games?

  • Parents need to talk to their kids about what they are playing
  • Three powerful questions to ask about their favorite game
    • “What does it take to be good at this game?” (what skills)
    • “What have you gotten better at”?
    • “What’s the hardest thing you’ve accomplished?”
  • Warning signs to watch out for to avoid addiction or harmful behaviors
    • Keep a time log for a week or two
    • If your kid plays more than 20 hours per week
      • 21 hours per week is the tipping point
      • After that games get in the way of physical or mental health
      • Try to control your kid’s game-time if it is above 20 hours/week
      • Unless your kid is super-accomplished or a professional e-player
    • If an increase in game time happens during an increase in real-life problem
      • Help your kid switch attention between the game and real-life
      • Use a game-approach to solving real problems
  • Talking about how you improved in games helps you bring those skills in life
    • It also helps to see games as tools for growth
    • People who do this don’t become escapist gamers
  • The optimal time to play games is before doing homework
    • Kids retain information better if they study before sleep
    • When we go to sleep the brain focuses on the most recent problem it was trying to solve
      • If kids play games before sleep, that’s what their brain will continue working on
    • The key is setting a hard time limit on game-time
  • The best games for kids to play
    • Playing games that peers play helps to bond and build social confidence
      • Even if there is some violence the benefits might outweigh the harms
      • There’s no proof that violent games increase violence in life
    • Talk to your kids about why they like the games they play

Developing Resilient Kids

  • “We need to rethink seating all of the power of what our kids to everyday to a bureaucratic, and unimaginative, anxiety-producing institution” Jane McGonigal
  • The school system traumatizes kids
    • It puts them under constant stress and anxiety
    • Constant external pressures damage kids’ ability to be self-motivated
  • We should allow kids to follow their natural curiosity and build on their strengths
    • In real life, having the inner drive to follow your interests will make them successful
    • Kids get better at a skill so much faster when they are excited to learn it
  • “The really resilient kids are going to be the ones who know how to follow their passion, teach themselves and build their own sense of motivation” Jane McGonigal

Treating Concussion Symptoms with Videogames

  • There’s no standard treatment for concussion
    • People are usually recommended just to rest
    • We don’t know how to speed up the healing process
  • Concussions make you anxious and depressed, creating a vicious cycle
    • Your brain is trying to stop you from getting injured again
      • It refuses to release dopamine and get you excited or motivated
      • It makes you not want to get out of bed
    • No getting out of bed makes you more depressed
    • Depression worsens the inflammation
  • Small steps to lower inflammation and treat concussion symptoms
    • Meditation
    • Eating turmeric and fatty foods (fish, nuts)
  • Jane first created SuperBetter to solve her own problem
    • She suffered a concussion and had a hard time recovering
    • She created a game applying everything she learned about the psychology and neurochemistry of gaming to help her healing process
  • Superbetter shows people the power they have over their own well-being
  • It starts by making you do small tasks that reduce inflammation and make you feel better
    • Stand up and take three steps
    • Send a text thanking someone who helped you
  • These small actions force your brain to fire up dopamine pathways

Helping Us Prepare for The Future

  • As a futurist Jane likes to imagine how the world might look like in the future
  • For example, what will the world look like when social networks are connected to our brains?
    • Many companies are working on these technologies
    • Yet people have a hard time imagining what it would look like and how they would behave
      • This makes it hard to guide current decisions that will affect the future
  • Jane guides people through imagined scenarios of the future to help them be prepared for possible futures
    • In 2008 and 2010 she worked on forecasts of a global pandemic happening
    • Players who played those games back then were better able to deal with COVID-19 in real life
  • Now Jane is working on scenarios of government-mandated internet shutdowns
    • It seems so implausible today
    • But this already happened, even in democracies
      • “The future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed” William Gibson
    • It’s important for people to think about what they would do if this happened

Additional Notes

  • Gamification is often used as a trick to get people to do things they don’t desire
    • We should make games that motivate people to do things they want to do but feel outside of their reach
Knowledge Project : , ,
Notes By Giorgio Parlato

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