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.
McGonigal directs game R&D at the Institute for the Future, a nonprofit forecasting firm where she developed Superstruct, a massively multiplayer game in which players organize society to solve for issues that will confront the world in 2019. She masterminded World Without Oil, which simulated the beginning of a global oil crisis and inspired players to change their daily energy habits. McGonigal also works with global companies to develop games that build on our collective-intelligence infrastructure — like The Lost Ring, a mystery game for McDonald’s that became the world’s biggest alternate reality game, played by more than 5 million people. (Not to mention the delightful Top Secret Dance-Off, which taps that space in our brains where embarrasment and joy mingle.) She’s working on book called Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Happy and How They Can Change the World.