Will Work Become a Game?

That’s one interpretation of a somewhat disturbing article that appeared in last week’s Wall Street Journal.  Game designer Jane McGonigal reports that gaming is taking up more waking hours of increasing numbers of people:

[There] are now more than five million “extreme” gamers in the U.S. who play an average of 45 hours a week. To put this in perspective, the number of hours that gamers world-wide have spent playing “World of Warcraft” alone adds up to 5.93 million years. These gamers aren’t rejecting reality entirely, of course. They have careers, goals, schoolwork, families and real lives that they care about. But as they devote more of their free time to game worlds, they often feel that the real world is missing something.

Pretty creepy, right?  But there might be a silver lining in this very dark cloud:

[More] than 19,000 players of EVOKE, an online game that I created for the World Bank Institute, undertook real-world missions to improve food security, increase access to clean energy and end poverty in more than 130 countries. The game focused on building up players’ abilities to design and launch their own social enterprises. After 10 weeks, they had founded more than 50 new companies—real businesses working today from South Africa and India to Buffalo, N.Y. My favorite is Libraries Across Africa, a new franchise system that empowers local entrepreneurs to set up free community libraries.

So we can create games that enable us to accomplish important tasks, in the same way that we can hook up hamsters’ exercise wheels to electrical generators to light up a room.  (We’ve posted about this before, too. )  Once again, the big question is whether this is progress or the beginning of the end.   Beats me.

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