Development / Using Games to Change the World

Using Games to Change the World

Jane McGonigal has a dream of seeing a game developer win the Nobel Peace prize. Her 2010 TED talk, “Gaming Can Make a Better World,” has been viewed 3.8 million times and her New York Times bestseller Reality is Broken has earned her a valuable platform among those wanting to use gaming and gamification to make the world a better place.

[pullquote]”Players will be highly motivated if they believe they are working to achieve something great, something awe-inspiring, something bigger than themselves.”[/pullquote]McGonigal observes that well-designed games tap into some of our deepest human motivations and provide immediate feedback in a way that normal life does not. However, rather than taking the approach that gamers are out of touch with reality or wasting their time, she sounds the call to use the principles game developers have figured out to motivate and enable people who want to be part of something meaningful. Although she doesn’t write from a Christian perspective, she has tapped into the deeper behavioral patterns and desires that we all share. She has developed games that go beyond entertainment to educate and help alleviate everything from depression to poverty.

Principles of gamification are all over the place if you know where to look. One introduction to gamification principles that may be particularly helpful is SCVNGR’s Game Mechanics Playdeck. Principle #17, Epic Meaning, explains, “Players will be highly motivated if they believe they are working to achieve something great, something awe-inspiring, something bigger than themselves.”

When Jesus came he spoke repeatedly of the Kingdom of God and of being the one who would fulfill our deepest needs. When our lives have been transformed by God, we often have an overpowering sense of responsibility and desire to share with others that change and freedom are possible. Pursuing the Great Commission in partnership with others is an example of Epic Meaning that believers have shared for centuries — long before video games came around.

So here’s the challenge: Take a look through the SCVNGR playdeck. Watch Jane McGonigal’s talk or pick up Reality is Broken. As you learn, start asking: How could you address the same internal drives that draw people into hours of World of Warcraft to inspire and engage them in being part of helping to fulfill the Great Commission?