Gamers can help solve global issues

The Institute for the Future develops video games based on real-world issues.

by Adam Daniels

Environmental activists criticized President Barack Obama last week after he announced plans to begin offshore drilling. But according to one expert, life without oil is actually attainable; the president just has to play more video games to realize it. According to a recent study by Jane McGonigal, director of games research and development at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, Calif., video gamers are an untapped source of valuable problem-solving skills and have the potential to introduce real, innovative change in environmental studies. The institute developed âÄúWorld Without OilâÄù in 2007, a strategy-driven game that centers around a fictional shortage in the worldâÄôs oil supply. Recently, the institute followed up with some of the gameâÄôs first 1,700 players. They found that a majority of the gamers have kept up habits they learned from the game. âÄúIt gives enough information for you to believe itâÄôs real and to live your real life as if weâÄôve run out of oil,âÄù McGonigal said in a recent speech. âÄúYou have to figure out how you would live your real life as if this were true.âÄù McGonigal credits the success to the mindset gamers develop. A gamer will still work on a challenge even after failure, confront obstacles and achieve greatness in various tasks, McGonigal said. By age 21, millions of kids living in countries with a strong gamer culture will have played 10,000 hours of games, nearly the same amount of time they spend in school between fifth grade and high school, McGonigal said. She argues that if the 3 billion hours played every week by more than 500 million gamers were put to games like âÄúWorld Without Oil,âÄù major global issues could be addressed. What it boils down to is making the connection between an âÄúepic winâÄù in the virtual world and success in the real world. University of Minnesota sophomore Nick Dellwo said he has already made that connection. âÄúI can see how IâÄôve made decisions âÄî and friends âÄî from what I learned from video games,âÄù said Dellwo, whose college admissions essay was titled, âÄúWhat I learned from video games.âÄù âÄúBeing a gamer has made me more confident in my abilities. TheyâÄôve made me more social and competitive.âÄù Junior Amanda Benarroch said being an avid gamer helps when attacking a problem. âÄú âÄòBraidâÄô is an amazing game that requires a complete paradigm shift in what you think you can do,âÄù said Benarroch. âÄúThe way I approach a problem in the real world is the way I approach them in video games. It took me a long time to get through the water temple in âÄòZelda: The Ocarina of Time.âÄô Patience was important, and I brought that when playing the game.âÄù