Epic Meaning


Came across Jane McGonigal’s TedTalks “Gaming Can Make A Better World” in my Internet wanderings. McGonigal talks about the qualities that she sees in gaming that should be tapped:

  • Urgent  optimism – the desire to act immediately to tackle obstacles and the belief  that there is reasonable hope for success
  • Tight social fabric – the immediate bonds and trust that are developed between people all over the world to accomplish tasks together
  • Blissful social activity – the rewards/feel goods that come from leveling up, beating a boss, etc.
  • Epic meaning – this is created from the awe-inspiring worlds, story lines  and missions that occur in game worlds

She terms these people “Super Empowered Hopeful Individuals” and asks us to stretch our minds to a future that utilizes their virtuoso qualities to tackle real-world problems.

From McGonigal’s presentation:

“We don’t want to try and predict the future. What we want to do is make the future. We want to imagine the best-case scenario outcome and then we want to empower people to make that outcome a reality.

We want to imagine epic wins and then give people the means to achieve the epic win.”

Very creative and exciting ideas, and I feel that there is a lot here to explore and work with in terms of applications. Collaboration, creating inspiring goals to work towards, and providing meaningful feedback are some of the ideas we can think about with relation to gaming and libraries and gaming and teaching.

However, I agree with the post’s author Springer when he points out that McGonigal is glossing over the variety of skills that are developed based on the type of game played. The collaborative, social nature that McGonigal focuses on with games such as World of Warcraft are not the only types of games that people are playing. For example, while I have played various social games other the years, those are not my go-to games when I play. I look for games I can play individually and that do not continue in real-time when I am not playing because of personal time constraints and irregularity of play. But I game for awe-inspiring stories and love the epic meaning behind solving puzzles and questing!

Inspired as I am by McGonigal’s presentation, I hope that we can expand her vision a bit to include the power of individuals. Collaboration can encompass individual acts towards community goals. Perhaps I just missed this nuance in her presentation. I wanted to see more explicit acknowledgement of the range of skills developed and the variety of learning styles individuals bring to video game environments and their value in the real-world applications she was referencing. And when giving a short, general presentation I realize that might not be possible. However, I want to explore more, and I look forward to reading her book on the subject, “Reality Is Broken” and checking out the various games she mentioned.