My short bio: I’m a game designer and researcher, author of the New York Times bestseller Reality is Broken Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. For the past 13 years, I’ve focused on how games can improve our real lives and help us solve real problems. For example: my most recent game, SuperBetter (, helps you tackle real-life health challenges with gaming strengths like curiosity, creativity, determination and allies. I like to study the impact of games scientifically, and a randomized controlled trial by the University of Pennsylvania recently showed that SuperBetter eliminates six symptoms of depression in six weeks for the typical player.

I’ve created games for the New York Public Library, the American Heart Association, the World Bank, the International Olympics Committee, among others. I’ve given four TED talks about games making a better world and I once made Stephen Colbert blush. I’m looking forward to the Games for Change ( festival in New York City next month where we’ll get to give awards to lots of groundbreaking games that are helping players learn more, feel better, and mobilize for good.

My Proof:

** My Secret Fun That I'm Having ** My husband and I made bingo cards based on what we thought I might get asked here. :) He and I are competing to see who fills our board fastest! I'll keep you posted when I win :)

TIME WENT SO FAST! THANKS FOR JOINING ME. I win AMA bingo with 13 squares vs Kiyash's 10. I'll post photos of our boards on Twitter at @avantgame! _^ Here they are:

Comments: 164 • Responses: 44  • Date: 

iamaAMAfan16 karma

Hello Jane!

Do you believe there are any negative psychological effects of playing video games? Is the belief that video games cause violence unfounded?

janemcgonigal29 karma

Yes of course videogames can have negative impacts -- but it is NOT the kind of game or the game itself, it's how you play. The most important thing we've learned from studies is that playing very aggressive, competitive games against strangers online (think call of duty) can boost your testosterone levels way too high for your own good -- it can make you more aggressive and more of a jerk to people for hours after you play. It's better to play competitive violent games against people you know in real-life -- your testosterone actually goes down after you beat them, the opposite impact of beating strangers online. Or play co-op with strangers or play single-player violent games or don't play violent games... just don't spend all your time trying to beat strangers online. It won't make you violent but it could turn you into a jerk for awhile.

OrangeCathy9 karma

This is very interesting! I would love to read some more research on this. Is there a name/research(er) I can google for that? As a media educator I get a lot of questions about the negative effects of gaming. And as a casual (but fanatic) pc gamer myself I find it quite easy to tell them about the positive sides, but I feel like I lack scientific knowledge sometimes. And this is definately something worth getting out there, too.

janemcgonigal10 karma

You can find a lot of the research by going to my science on games compilation page !

speedy62111 karma

Hey Jane, I have philosophical question for you. Do see any negative implications of using a collective intelligence to better our lives?

janemcgonigal11 karma

I think collective intelligence has to be balanced against breakthrough ideas. One person might have a genius solution or strategy that is not going to be valued or bubble up through collective intelligence. So we can't let the crowd vote on everything and take the crowd's word for it... but we can give voices to more diverse people and look in the crowd for breakthrough solutions.

bogart2411 karma

Loved "Reality is Broken." As a high school English teacher I'm always looking for ways to "gamify" my classroom. The book was inspiring. Are there any online resources that could offer additional ideas that you are aware of?

janemcgonigal6 karma

I love this book: The Multiplayer Classroom

The author Lee Sheldon's online work -- you can search for it -- should be helpful! Also, everything they are doing at the PlayMaker school is AMAZING!!

thinkintuit10 karma

What do you think of biofeedback/neurofeedback games such as Erin Reynold's Nevermind or Throw Trucks with Your Mind? Is it just a gimmicky distraction (like 3D movies), or do these games have real potential to improve people's lives, for example by helping them to better manage stress or focus their attention? Where do you see neurofeedback games going in the future?

janemcgonigal8 karma

I'm a big fan of Erin's work and Nevermind, and I enjoyed throwing a truck with my mind, it was a very intense and interesting experience :) I think biofeedback and neurofeedback games are extremely useful for teaching us to pay attention and learn to control our thoughts and feelings and physiological responses -- we should look at them as training, but not as something we would play consistently forever. I don't think I would always want to play a horror game that gets scarier and scarier if I'm too calm, for example. I don't think we need that level of feedback -- more interesting to me as something you might play for a week to develop a new real-life superpower, e.g. more control over your thoughts/feelings.

deathbow10 karma

Hi Jane! I am also an international conference speaker re: games and I what point is it possible/appropriate to charge honorariums for speaking engagements (at present, I usually have to go to these at least partially on my own dime), and how might doing so affect my invitations? Thanks much! MAD respect, disciple here. (~Heidi McDonald)

janemcgonigal9 karma

it is ALWAYS appropriate to ask for travel expenses reimbursed an honorarium for ANY speaking engagement no matter how experienced you are. You must, of course, be willing to accept some invitations anyway even if they can't support those costs if they'll do you good (I still occasionally pay my own travel to do pro bono talks for worthy causes or cool events!) But ALWAYS ASK, don't be afraid of seeming rude or entitled. I would suggest simply replying: "Are you able to cover travel costs and an honorarium?" That's all it takes to get the ball rolling :)

Barbelithus9 karma

As a beginner to game design, what are you three biggest advices to up-and-comers? Do you feel there is any programming language that is the most important language to learn? What is some of the software or online tools you use in your work? Thanks for doing this AMA!

janemcgonigal7 karma

My biggest advice is to make games and share them. In any format. iOS is easy to learn and you can ship fast -- that makes it a great platform for just getting the hang of a game design cycle from idea to prototyping to iteration and playtesting to polishing. I'm not a developer, I'm a designer, so I don't code my own stuff anymore -- so my advice on software is probably terribly unhelpful. But the best advice is to make and share, make and share -- even if you start with board games or card games (which are making a huge comeback!) or text games like the kind you can create on Twine ( just get your creative work out there and get feedback on your ideas. I remember one of my first games that got a lot of attention was built on Blogger, and another on Flickr. Those aren't even game platforms. :)

raikmond9 karma

Do you think that a Engineering student like me can end up either designing or producing videogames?

janemcgonigal8 karma

Of course! having an engineering background gives you a crucial advantage in that you understand how systems work and can likely bridge between creative ideas and practical implementation. I recommend reading design articles on as often as possible and going to the annual Game Design Jam in January to get practical experience. And hang out at your local International Game Developers Association events if you are near/in a city with an chapter

mustlovewugs9 karma

SO RELEVANT ! I am part of a 4-person research group at IUPUI that is looking at the social structures and players' motivations that arise around ARGs. We're neck-deep in ARG research, like, RIGHT NOW. We hope to submit our work to the CSCW Conference this summer. Our team has two questions!

  1. We are having trouble locating a compilation of the Cloudmakers', etc. work surrounding I Love Bees and/or The Beast. Do you know of such a resource?

  2. We would LOVE a chance to run our theory by you. It involves a number of sociology theories, but focuses around collective action and Cziksentmihalyi's concept of flow. I know you're busy, but if you have time, please shoot me an email!! :) [email protected]

We are so excited you're doing the AMA! :) Thanks!! :)

janemcgonigal9 karma

The Unfiction forums for I Love Bees (they called it the Haunted Apiary) is probably a good resource if you haven't tapped it yet. ANd this was a major wiki effort by the players The CLoudmaker/Beast stuff I have archives of on CD-Rom buried in storage somewhere that I should figure out how to donate to somewhere... likewise we have a lot of design documentation on those games that should be archived somewhere I think! NOt superhelpful for your project right now but that's what I came up with top of mind. Please tweet at me about the collective action/flow theory @avantgame

lintropy8 karma

I first found became aware of your work through your "best sentence of the day blog," which was just clever and fun. Looking back, do you think doing a PhD was the best route to your current work? How much of your later success would you attribute to activities you did concurrently with your PhD, such as blogging and social media?

janemcgonigal9 karma

A PhD was absolutely crucial to doing this work -- particularly being at a university like UC Berkeley where interdisciplinary research was so encouraged. I wouldn't be able to do the peer-reviewed research I'm doing now to investigate the positive impacts of games without my grad school research training, and I met so many great collaborators through grad school. It is important to make a profile for yourself at the same time doing high-impact work -- as MIT Media lab's director Joi Ito now says "deploy or die"... put your stuff in the real world, as often as possible!

thatpaul6 karma

I've read (parts of) your dissertation. It's so much more theoretical (Deleuzian et al) than your superbly accessible book, Reality is Broken. Do you still occasionally think like a Theory-head? Or was that a stage to go through, that now is less relevant in your work?

janemcgonigal6 karma

Hmmm.... good question. UC Berkeley was very much into theory while I was there (in the social sciences and humanities anyway) and every PhD Program is like a game where you have to figure out how to win, using theory helped me win with many of the faculty and advisors :) Some of the theorists I still find useful are Geertz, Goffman, Schechner, and Victor Turner. Not so much the post-modern stuff :)

ChristopherOrChris8 karma

What is your favorite game?

janemcgonigal10 karma

Through the various stages of my life different games have been important, here is an off-the-top-of-my-head autobiography in videogames (which by the way I think everyone should write one of these! such a good way to understand each other)

LodeRunner (the first game I dreamt about)

Infocom games like Lurking Horror

Tass Times in Tone Town

The Pandora Directive

House of the Dead


Grim Fandango

The Beast/AI Web game


Dance Dance Revolution

World of Warcraft



epeus7 karma

Can you tell us why 2048 has us so hooked?

janemcgonigal6 karma

It's a new challenge that is similar enough to previous games that we can understand it while still needing to work hard to master it... our happiest brain state is when we're goal-oriented (I want to figure this out!) and learning as we go (developing mastery, improving skills). 2048 seems to be tapping into that perfectly.

actionmill7 karma

Jane! Thanks for doing this AMA. I’m curious about your experience with health games. Which ones (besides SuperBetter, naturally) were really fun to play? And as a follow-up, are there any great health games you’ve tried out that are played in real time as groups rather than individuals?

janemcgonigal5 karma

interesting question -- I'm obsessed with efficacy, and the most effective games for health tend to treat very specific conditions, like Snow World VR treating pain in severe burn victims more effectively than morphine. I haven't played that game but that kind of research gets me really excited. I am a big supporter of Zombies Run because it does a great job of infusing physical activity with narrative and amazing aesthetic experience (Through the audio design especially) I've always said that Nike+ is for me my favorite game to play because it's helped me motivate to run faster and further for almost 4000 miles since I started playing in 2007 :)

metamink7 karma

What games are you playing at the moment?

janemcgonigal9 karma

EyeWire, to help science! I'm not ashamed to say Candy Crush, because it's the first videogame my mom has ever played and I love racing with her to try to get to level 400 (she's around 85 and I'm 240-something). Broken Age is next on my list when my husband and I have enough time to sit and play it together. And of course MINECRAFT IS THE BEST.

iponly6 karma

I was recently hired to do marketing related work for a company that makes educational games aimed at healthcare & education professionals. Is there anywhere I can go to talk to people about selling games to organizations instead of users or just selling socially beneficial games in general? There's places for developers, but I haven't found anything for business staff. I'm local to NYC.

Planning to make a game of my own someday, but right now I just want to be good at what I'm doing!

janemcgonigal6 karma

You should definitely see if you can swing a pass at the Games for Change festival in NYC next month! You would meet many great people to help you with exactly that work.

UbiBlargmonster6 karma

How do you feel about implementing reputation systems into consoles and games?

janemcgonigal7 karma

I think it's important to experiment with any systems that can help improve quality of social experience in game communities, and reputation systems -- although certainly not perfect -- are definitely one way to do that. I think it would be cool to have the ability to develop different kinds of reputations, of course. on ebay, everyone wants to have a good and trustworthy reputation, but maybe I might want to develop a supervillian reputation in a game community. :) Of course that doesn't necessarily inspire a nicer social community all-around -- but it would allow people who don't want to play with supervillains to avoid them at least.

thinkfun6 karma

How close do you think we are to recognitions like a Nobel Prizes for gaming? Still think it will happen by 2023?!

janemcgonigal4 karma

Yes, 2023 still seems feasible! We have to measure impact more, however -- use science or longitudinal studies of people who play games for change. I think the most likely candidates are a citizen science game that solves a major problem, could get a Nobel for medicine or biology, or we could see a massively co-op videogame get a prize in economics for a new kind of game theory!

Audible19795 karma

Hi Jane, I am a huge follower, elementary edtech teacher in Canada, and fellow game-based learning researcher. As someone who is planning on pursuing Ph.D research in the field in the next few years I am curious where you feel game-based learning research needs to be focused, especially in the elementary school realm, to continue the positive momentum we've achieved the last few years.

janemcgonigal5 karma

That's great! Please help us save education by focusing on games that will help end the focus on industrialized model of one-classroom fits-all, and everyone should sit still and take tests. Games that allow self-paced learning are incredibly important. Games that span multiple skill levels in math, language, etc so students can self-pace will be crucial as we hopefully move more to a School in the Cloud era

countkillalot5 karma

Hi Jane! I'm a big fan.

I've always thought that games are our most powerful social tools to address all kinds problems. What do you think are some of the most important issues that games can help solve? And what can a small independent inventor/developer do to help save the world with games?

Thanks for all the important work you're doing! :)

janemcgonigal2 karma

The biggest areas for impact for games in the next decade are I think 1) increasing empathy for people different from ourselves (especially using VR) 2) teaching individuals important mental health and resilience skills like being able to block anxiety, reverse depression, and alleviate pain through strategic playing of games and 3) changing education to allow for self-motivated, self-paced learning that is connected to real-world challenges and creativity. Any inventor or game developer can help this cause by measuring positive impact of any game you create. Even if it's not a "game for change" or "game for good" -- even if it's an entertainment or art game -- see if you can measure a positive impact on players' physical, emotional, social or mental health. There are all kinds of traits and skills that can be measured. Try to add some data to the field! :)

23890435 karma

I guess I've got two questions:

First up, how'd you get started with games and gaming? A childhood thing, or a curiosity later?

And two, I believe at some point you taught at Berkeley? Not sure where I found that, but I know some Berkeley students who are very much interested in gamification, and would love to find an educator like you! :) (I totally gave them your book as a substitution)

janemcgonigal9 karma

Started doing mods on playground games as far back as I can remember (first grade), so I guess I always had game designer instincts. Started making digital games in 5th grade using basic programming on a Commodore 64. My first game was called "You be the judge", a kind of courtroom text adventure where you get to decide "guilty" or "not guilty" and rule on objections. The judge was a cat because that was easier to design in ascii art. TRUE STORY. :) Years later I worked with NYC parks and recreation to organize large scale recreation events like massively multiplayer easter egg hunts in Central Park (30,000+ kids) and I think that was the best training I got for the kind of alternate reality/mass collab games I later wound up making in grad school and after. I did teach at UC berkeley when I did my PhD there and it was amazing! I hope to teach game design at UC Berkeley again, someone just needs to ask me, I'd love to teach another course or two.

kittenpyjamas5 karma

Hi Jane, how does it feel to live a double life as a professor at Hogwarts and as a video game designer?

(Also, on a serious note, it's great that you're a woman in the video game industry who is getting so much exposure and being taken so seriously, it's wonderful to see.)

janemcgonigal5 karma

THANK YOU!! Believe it or not we have 3 Hogwarts professors in the family, me my mom and my twin sister, so we do Harry Potter proud. Only my sister Kelly can turn into a cat though. Thank you for the kind comments :)

goldenj4 karma

Educational games: How do you feel about the tension between the need to privatize games to support the designers and the desire for open source games that are free for non-commercial educational use? Do we need both or should we go in one or the other direction?

janemcgonigal3 karma

There's a lot of effort in both directions right now, which is probably good. VCs are investing a lot of money in for-profit educational game ventures, but lots of foundation money too. I prefer to go the free for non-commercial route myself because I want to avoid barriers to use and I personally don't really enjoy business development of business models! but I have learned that projects can definitely be more sustainable and scalable with an actual revenue model :)

fatso7844 karma

Hey Jane. What are some rules of thumb you use to design your games?

janemcgonigal7 karma

I usually start with a real-world impact I'm trying to achieve, which is different from designers focused on art or entertainment. I try to imagine an "epic win" for the player -- for example, in my NYPL game Find the Future the first thing I decided was that I wanted playing the game successfully to mean you've written a book which you can print on demand and have included in the library's catalog. So, playing the game turns you into a published author. For the game CryptoZoo I made for the American Heart Association, I started with the goal of inventing a form of parkour for clumsy people scared of jumping off buildings (like me!) that would make us see every street as an opportunity for play and physical activity. I decided if I could get a non-runner to run more than a mile every time they played that would be an epic win. So that's my primary rule -- what goal and challenge can I give players to help them achieve something real and awesome, and then what support and superpowers do I need to give them to help them do it?

Doopliss774 karma

Jane, I am a huge fan of your work and I wholly support your mission as a game designer to foster and spread a culture of positivity and self-improvement among the gaming community! Your work has made me a vocal proponent of these ideals and I cannot thank you enough for being such a wonderful role model.

As an art history undergrad, I have one question: What is your opinion on the recent trend of regarding video games as works of art? Do you subscribe to this point of view, and do you think it will cause any kind of significant change on game design in the future?

janemcgonigal5 karma

I think it's probably helpful to everyone who cares about games to see games well-regarded as works of art. Of course, I think the gamers and what gamers do are at least as interesting as the game itself -- so I think galleries should not be presenting the game as object per se, but the game being played as the artwork itself. The videogame itself is a can of soup. The game being played by someone is art. To make a Warhol reference if that makes sense :)

thatpaul4 karma

Stanford vs Berkeley; Psychology vs Performance Studies; Mindfulness vs Game Play: Can you discuss how your being a twin influences your life, at this stage? (BTW, I'd never read 2 separate books by twins, but I loved both yours & Kelly's books; they definitely showed family resemblances in prose & wit)

janemcgonigal4 karma

I am so lucky to have an identical twin sister who is a genius and whose work inspires me every single day. It's like having an alternate universe/multiverse version of myself (since we share the same DNA!) who has spent her life learning something different from me and developing different skills, and being able to learn from her work helps me feel like I have a double-life sometimes :) More concretely, she is VERY much involved in helping me make sure my science is up to date and that I'm sharing the most recent and accurate psychological and neuroscience findings -- since she is still in academia at Stanford she often knows upcoming work that helps me stay ahead of the game so to speak :)

DocPop4 karma

Every time I think of your work, I look back at I Love Bees and the massive influence it had on Augment Reality Gaming. Could you tell us a bit of what it was like working on that game before ARG was a common term? IE pitching the game, size of the team, previous inspiration, etc.

janemcgonigal3 karma

Thanks for asking about that project! It will always be one of the coolest things I ever got to be a part of. The team was huge in some regards -- the production of the Audio assets required dozens of actors and an amazing post-production team in LA -- and we had payphone scouts traveling all over the country getting GPS coordinates for payphones that still accepted phone calls. There were 4 of us who didn't sleep for six months which I think of as the core engine of the running the live game. Leading that team was Elan Lee and Sean Stewart, whose previous game the Beast I was already writing about in my PhD work at Berkeley. This is a true story: I stalked them for interviews for my research, and then was able to start ongoing conversations with them about ideas for bringing online games into reality... after a year of these conversations, Elan called me up and said, "Do you want to play our next game, or help work on it?" I always use this experience to encourage aspiring game designers to write interesting and positive things about the work you admire, evangelize for people you want to work with, offer to help them for free, and use that as a bridge to potentially collaborating with them! I always wind up hiring enthusiastic players of my games for future projects.

BlackCaesar3 karma

Hi Jane! I'm someone who works in the positive psychology field and I was wondering what your take on gaming was in relation to achieving happiness? Especially in the more eudaimonic sense.

janemcgonigal3 karma

Here are some links for people not familiar with the term eudaimonia: Okay, so I think games are actually quite relevant to developing the skills to lead a purposeful, meaningful, virtuous life -- particularly in terms of the virtues of determination, teamwork, citizenship, creativity, love of learning, curiosity, etc. The key is to not use games as an escape -- to avoid real-life problems, but rather to challenge yourself. Playing games that are difficult for you builds mental and emotional resilience that makes it possible for you to transfer that determination and optimism to real-life challenges -- particularly if you're building and strengthening that neural circuitry, not like brain training games, but simply the ability to self-motivate towards goals and learn from failure. Research suggests if you play games to suppress negative feelings, however, you won't get these positive effects. You can't play to escape. You have to play with purpose -- to build your relationships with the friends and family you play with, to build leadership skills, to relax so that you can focus on your studies or work. etc.

deathbow3 karma

Who are the designers and design authors you look up to?

janemcgonigal2 karma

I've probably been most influenced by designer Elan Lee. I love Tom and David Kelley at IDEO's new book Creative Confidence. People should learn about Chelsea Howe's videogame work, she is amazing! But mostly I am inspired by psychology research and that's what I spend most of my time reading. Barbara Fredrickson,Todd Kashdan, Kelly McGonigal, Marty Seligman, Angela Duckworth....

muskoxable3 karma

Are there any new (or old) types of games that people could be playing now, but aren't? Is there a depository of games that have never been played?

janemcgonigal2 karma

I love this question. I don't know if there is a depository of games that have never been played but I love the idea of creating a massive installation that we pretend is a depository of games that have never been played that we just rediscovered (and invent a bunch of new games for it) :)

thinkintuit3 karma

Are you familiar with Jayne Gackenbach's research that showed a strong correlation between lucid dreaming and playing video games? Have you experienced this effect yourself?

janemcgonigal2 karma

YES! I love her research. I have experienced this impact but only when I'm spending more time playing first-person shooters which is not something I have done in a few years. I think the first-person POV makes a big difference.

eliazar3 karma

How about thinking of Reddit as a massively multiplayer gaming world? It's open-ended, built simply on sharing and voting, but its most successful campaigns are formalized into subreddits (IAma, AskReddit, bestof, TIL, ELI5, WTF, 50/50, Gentleman Boners, Crazy Ideas, Map Porn, AskHistorians...) and there are also plenty of impromptu informal campaigns like memes or the recent fever for creating variations of the 2048 game in Hacker News (a Reddit clone for hackers & startups). Do you see it that way too, perhaps?

I'm asking because I have trouble imagining the kind of game you see as winning a Nobel prize someday but Reddit always keeps coming to my mind. I realize your forecast is meant as a provocation, an imaginative leap, or perhaps even a koan, but taking Reddit as a starting point, how would you tweak it to make it (or one of its subreddits) Nobel-worthy one day?

Thanks Jane! :) I've read your book and loved it. Your ideas and enthusiasm have been a source of great inspiration for me.

janemcgonigal2 karma

I love this question. I think we'd have to find a way to pose challenges to the Reddit community -- like an XPrize for Reddit. Let Reddit throw its igenuity and creativity and mobilization skills at grand challenges identified and designed purposefully to tap into its strengths. The Reddit community could define its own grand challenges of course! But I think the key idea here is to aim bigger and design a challenge that would require sustained effort

SadetheSage3 karma

how did you know a career in game design was the best outlet to effect the kind of changes you have? versus being a writer/psychiatrist/theater teacher/the multitude of possibilities someone with your degree could be. ever dreamt of another medium?

+1 brilliance +1 changed my life thanks!

janemcgonigal2 karma

what a sweet question, thank you Sade :) I wrestled with the question in grad school, because I thought theater might be the medium I would work in instead of games! Here's what changed my mind: When I told fellow grad students and professors about the work I was doing in theater (with physicists, which was cool!), they were maybe mildly curious or had no idea what I was talking about. When I started working in games that bridged to reality, everyone flipped out. Professors invited me to their office to tell them more. Students in my seminars from six different departmetns followed me back to my department's grad student lounge to sit next to me for hours as I showed them the kinds of games I was talking about. Basically, I saw that everyone was interested and excited about one topic and the other topic would have been me talking to myself for the next decade. I think this is a great way to make decisions -- not to let other people decide for you what is interesting (you have to trust your gut!) but to see what people respond to most in your work and your efforts and focus on building those strengths rather than trying to convince other people that you are good at something you're not, or that your work is massively appealing or interesting when it might have a more limited audience. When the world loves what you are doing, amplify that!

slothboyck3 karma

Hi Jane! I first heard of you a few years ago in one of my college classes about the social impact of video games. You work is really great! Loved the TED talks, as well.

My question is: What is your opinion on Facebook's acquisition of Occulus VR? Do you see this is a positive boost for the real-world application of video games?


janemcgonigal5 karma

Positives: 1) It's gotten a lot of people talking about the next-generation of VR (good). 2) Facebook will give it a lot of resources probably to help them innovate faster (good). 3) Valve is going to do amazing things with VR so if Facebook screws it up, that's okay. ON THE OTHER HAND... What would make me more excited: A commitment from Facebook to fund LOTS of scientific research on the impact of VR on mental health, physical health and social well-being. Specifically we need best practices to avoid inching our way to a world of escapism without purpose, and head instead toward a world of playing with purpose in VR -- to ease pain, to cure depression, to learn faster and more effectively, to provoke positive emotions like awe and wonder and curiosity when we need them most, but not to live in a VR world, we need to connect the benefits of VR to our everyday physical environments and face to face social relationships.

Daddypher2 karma

1) Favorite place to run? 2) Do you feel companies are trying to Gamify too much now?

janemcgonigal5 karma

I feel like you are effectively gamifying ME right now by asking me about something I love to talk about (running) before asking me about something I hate (corporate gamification), ha ha, well played. Favorite home town run is across the Golden Gate Bridge, and other favorite parks are Central Park in NYC, Holyrood in Edinburgh and Stanley Park in Vancouver! Are companies trying to gamify too much now? Yes! Of course they are! Any gamification at all is too much if you ask me, because gamification typically in a corporate environment means trying to manipulate people into doing something they don't already want to do -- buy more, tweet more, work for free, etc. That's why I only make games that empower people to do something they already want to do -- like recover from a brain injury, or become an published author, or dance more without being embarrassed :)

j_one_k2 karma

Did you ever get a chance to play The Dance and the Dawn LARP? I saw you were interested in on kickstarter.

janemcgonigal1 karma

I have not played it yet! I did back that project though so I have hope I will one day put my rewards to good use. I am mostly interesting in LARPing in extreme physical environments, like doing the Dance and the Dawn at the sand dunes at Fort Funston after dark!

PettyPantz2 karma

Many people use games as a form of escapism, what is the best way to change that behaviour?

janemcgonigal2 karma

I gave a talk about this at GDC! It's very important to educate the world about the benefits of games so we can all play with purpose, not to supress bad feelings but to make ourselves better, stronger

FrozenStorm2 karma

Hey Jane!

Loved your book :) I'm very interested in games and their application to learning, where do you see games fitting into K-12? Do you see an emerging market for Educational Games on the horizon?

janemcgonigal3 karma

I think the more interesting question is how do we see K-12 evolving in general, and will that make games more or less relevant? I am optimistic that we are going to see a move away from industrialized classroom learning to models of project-based, challenge-based, self-paced learning -- like the School in the Cloud model. In this case, games will help kids self-learn new skills (like DragonBox) or contribute to real science (like any of these games or start their own real-world projects like we did with EVOKE for the world bank (

numbalum892 karma

Jane, I'm curious if you know anything about Sudbury schools like the one where I work ( We let kids of all ages play games of their choosing as much as they like. Thus I also want to thank you for your work in enhancing the legitimacy of gaming as a crucial means of making a better life.

janemcgonigal2 karma

That is an awesome resource! Thank you for the link which I will dig into after this AMA and which I'm sure a lot of other folks here will find superinteresting. :)

postExistence2 karma

Okay, I have several questions for you, and maybe you'll get a bingo:

  • Fungineers? I don't really like that word, it's cringe-inducing. Can you officially recant that word and come up with something different? I know imagineer is taken...

  • A lot of your work is on making a better world, but how much time do you devote to making better people: individuals' emotional development and search for personal identity through games? I think that's a road far less traveled.

  • How do you think games can improve the condition of people with ADHD?


Chris Pioli, that dude you always want to talk with at the GDC but never get the time to meet (and fellow CA), who goes on and on about the Solar Decathlon.

PS: do you want a five-minute warning?

janemcgonigal2 karma

I didn't coin the word fun-gineers! Edward Castranova did. Go complain to him. :) I have used the word happiness engineers in my book, which is closer to what I want people to be. If you know my recent work, SuperBetter, you know in recent years I've switched more to personal development than global problem-solving (e.g. the EVOKE style game).

postExistence1 karma

notes the name Edward Castranova

I wish SuperBetter was ported to Android machines!

Thanks for the responses!

janemcgonigal1 karma

Android version will be available next month! Finally!!

Tutts2 karma

I have a 5 year old who wants to make games but I hate coding! HATE IT! What do you suggest I do to facilitate this for him and is also age appropriate?

janemcgonigal3 karma

Game Star Mechanic is awesome!! I'm not sure if 5 years old is quite developmentally ready for it unless you're willing to help, which would be awesome, and I know many young parents-and-kids who use Gamestar together

bogart241 karma

Have you seen any of the excellent Feminist Frequency videos by Anita Sarkeesian? I think they are a great use of theory and criticism at a very accessible level. 1. Any thoughts on her work? 2. How do we create a safer online/gaming world for women? 3. What do game makers need to do to better include women?

janemcgonigal2 karma

She is awesome. She is brave. She is making space for more girls to become interested in playing and making game.... her work is very important. There are so many important things to say about making games and game dev more inclusive but the biggest on my list would be: 1) more representations of girls and women as the primary heroes in games, not just to be rescued or given a helping hand 2) we have to stop discounting certain genres of games as being "not real games" -- the discounted genres are usually genres that women are very active in 3) co-op, co-op, co-op; social, social, social -- all research shows these are game styles that are more appealing to girls than strictly competitive or single-player.

Fatmonkey84-2 karma

How many marshmallows can you fit in your mouth?

janemcgonigal2 karma

If you ask me the giant duck/duck-sized horse question instead, I can get bingo on my AMA bingo card :)