Gamers, let’s change the world

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We need to stop framing games as a waste of time and start thinking about how we can use them to change the world.

It’s game on, friends. Game. On.

Did you know that playing games for three hours every day, or 21 hours each week, can positively impact your life? Did you know that by playing with others, either face-to-face or online, is subconsciously promoting social connectivity?

For years, the gaming community has struggled against the notion that gaming is a frivolous hobby that promotes violence and escapism. This is simply not true.

Video game designer and author Jane McGonigal gave an interesting talk at the tech conference SXSW in 2011. “Games in fact are not distracting us from reality,” she said. “But they are preparing us to tackle the world’s most urgent challenges.”

Considering how prevalent gaming has become, it’s important to understand that not all the stigmas surrounding the subculture are true.

It’s all about finding the right balance.

“At fewer than 21 hours [of gaming], you get really full-on positive impacts,” McGonigal said. “Between 21 and 28 hours, you start to see some trade-offs possibly distracting you from real-life goals or relationships. Once you hit 28 to 30 hours a week, you’re almost certainly having some negative impacts.”

Clearly, too much gaming isn’t healthy for you. But if you remain under the 21-hour mark per week, you are gaining positive experiences and exercising mental growth—without even realizing it.

In her 2010 TED talk, McGonigal called gamers “super-empowered, hopeful individuals.” I agree.

“These are people who believe that they are individually capable of changing the world,” she said. “And the only problem is, they believe that they are capable of changing virtual worlds and not the real world. That’s the problem that I’m trying to solve.”

In online games, we are the heroes for a virtual world. Our character, avatar, champion or legend is powerful enough to impact that world in a meaningful way. As gamers, we strive to improve our characters and work with others to achieve our mission.

And that’s the key—we work with others.

While some games are individual endeavors, most have some level of social connectivity. Whether you are a team of three legends battling to the end in “Apex Legends,” five champions destroying an opposing team’s nexus in “League of Legends,” or 20 raiders taking down the next boss in “World of Warcraft,” working together is essential.

“World of Warcraft” is a good example of teamwork. My character is fairly strong and can accomplish most things without assistance. But there are some things even she can’t do solo.

In the online world of Azeroth, there are many other players around. It doesn’t take long to enlist a few others to bring down any big bad that my character can’t handle on her own.

But what does this have to do with impacting the real world?

By playing games and understanding how easily we can work with others to tackle challenges, I believe we are training our own minds to understand the power of social connectivity.

The next time you need help in real life, you might be more likely to ask someone. And you may be more likely to help others in need.

McGonigal is right to believe gamers are capable of changing the world. I believe it is already happening.

Fellow gamers, it’s time to join forces, power up and make the world a better place.

To get started in gaming, head to the Library and Learning Center for Metro State’s Game Night, held the third Tuesday of the month, 4-7 p.m., in the first-floor lounge.