Jane McGonigal – Games Designer and Futurist

Jane McGonigal
Image of Jame McGonigal by Christopher Michel from Flickr with thanks

Jane McGonigal is a games designer and professional Futurist.

McGonigal is known for advocating the development and use of games for tackling real-world problems and for fostering mass collaboration. As such she has often been linked with ‘Gamification‘. However, she dislikes this term and has spoken out against the use of games to get people to do things they don’t want to do. She states “If the game is not about a goal you’re intrinsically motivated by, it won’t work.”

Her first book ‘Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make us Better and How they Can Change the World’, was published in 2011. Drawing on research into Positive Psychology, she argues that games that games are a powerful force for good, helping players find meaning and motivating them to collaborate on real-world issues.

Reality is Broken is available on Amazon

Her second book ‘SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver, and More Resilient’, was published in 2015. This book details the game design which grew out of McGonigal’s own struggles after suffering a severe concussion in 2008. the effects were long-lasting, leading to depression and even feeling suicidal. She responded by creating a game ‘Jane, The Concussion Slayer’, which later was renamed Superbetter. This game uses quests, powerups and allies to help players, beat the ‘bad guys’ to overcome real-life challenges, such as illness.

SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach… is available on Amazon

Other games developed by McGonigal include:

  • A World without Oil – an alternate reality game (ARG) created to call attention to, spark dialogue about, plan for and engineer solutions to a possible near-future global oil shortage, post peak oil. McGonigal co-created this with game writer and designer Ken Eklund, who talks about in this article for Ludogogy.
  • I Love Bees – an alternate reality game (ARG) that served as both a real-world experience and viral marketing campaign for the release of developer Bungie’s 2004 video game Halo 2.

Jane McGonigal became the Director of Games Research and Development at the Institute for the Future (IFTF) in 2008. Read Ludogogy’s review of her IFTF / Coursera course on Futures Thinking.

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