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Designer Jane McGonigal launches 'gratitude network' game for Oprah Winfrey
Designer Jane McGonigal launches 'gratitude network' game for Oprah Winfrey
May 1, 2012 | By Mike Rose

May 1, 2012 | By Mike Rose
More: Social/Online, Design

Alternate-reality game designer and researcher Jane McGonigal has launched the first game from her SuperBetter Labs studio -- a "gratitude network" game, designed for talk show host and producer Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah's Thank You Game, available on Facebook, features a large "I said thank you' button," with the idea that players take part in daily challenges and send thank yous to each other.

The game is a collaboration between SuperBetter and the Oprah Winfrey Network, with the goal of "spreading the positive emotion of gratitude to half a billion people worldwide."

McGonigal and SuperBetter director of design Chelsea Howe believe that the game will encourage players to show gratitude towards each other, via social elements and world heat maps.

Sean Baenen, vice chair of SuperBetter Labs, noted, "We had a vision for a social game that resulted in every single person in the United States and Canada feeling truly appreciated for something they've done. It was an ambitious project in the field of social media as agency for positive emotions, making Ms. Winfrey the perfect partner."

McGonigal is a proponent of serious games and positive change in games. She is currently director of game research and development at the Institute for the Future, and has previously written the book Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.

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E McNeill
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I really wish the How To Play section actually explained how to play the game. So far, I don't see much game in it. That's not to say that it's an unworthy project, but I don't understand why the rhetoric of games is so aggressively applied.

Alexander Jhin
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After thoroughly enjoying McConigal's book, I'm surprised her company's first effort is so ineffective. Basically, you say thank you to someone in real life, in a very particular way, then you push a button acknowledging you said thank you.

This design is completely uninspired! I could create a "volunteer" game with these exact same mechanics: volunteer somewhere in real life then push a button to show you've done it. I could create a "curse at someone game" or a "help a stranger game" all with the same mechanics. The act of thanking someone is hardly made more effective with McConigal's online component.

Here are some ideas for making the "Thank You Game" more effective:
1) A series of interactive text fields to walk you through the three steps of a successful thank you (rather than just making you watch YouTube explaining the three steps.)
2) The ability to send the thank you to someone via Facebook.
3) A display of the viral web of thank you's that you're actually a part of (as opposed to the example web shown on the website which doesn't represent real thank yous.)
4) Clean up the web page in general, make it more wizard like and less scattered/self directed. And please don't bury the instructions in a YouTube video that's minutes long!

Mc Conigal's definition of "game" is simply the voluntary taking on of a challenge. So sure, the "Thank You Game" is a game -- you volunteer to thank someone and press a button acknowledging it. But game or not, it's not particularly effective (beyond being associated with Oprah.)

I look forward to SuperBetter Lab's next effort and hope it is a more effective step forward for Positive Change Games.

Gregory Booth
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"(But game or not, it's not particularly effective (beyond being associated with Oprah.)"

Being associated with Oprah is a step towards being "effective" as a game? :D