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Video: Designing games to be impactful, not escapist entertainment
July 23, 2014 | By Staff

July 23, 2014 | By Staff
More: Console/PC, Serious, Design, Production, Video, Vault

"Our games are creating a rich, productive, happy world -- but only for players who know what they're doing."
- Game designer Jane McGonigal reminds developers that their games affect the lives of their players based on how the players approach them.

Author and game designer Jane McGonigal believes games change how we feel, think, act, and relate to each other, even when we aren't actively playing them. In a recent GDC talk she exhorted developers to take responsibility for how their games change people's lives, and how the design of a game -- sometimes more than the content of the game -- is what affects players the most.

During her hour-long talk McGonigal shared the interesting history of "escapist" entertainment and shared some concrete design advice for building games that positively impact the lives of their players, encouraging developers to capitalize on the opportunity to design for maximum, positive real-life impact.

It's an interesting talk, so we've gone ahead and embedded the free video of McGonigal's IGDA-sponsored session "THERE IS NO ESCAPE: Designing Games for Maximum Real-life Impact" above. You can also watch it here on the GDC Vault.

About the GDC Vault

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent Game Developers Conference events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers.

Those who purchased All Access passes to recent events like GDC, GDC Europe, and GDC Next already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription via a GDC Vault subscription page. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company by contacting staff via the GDC Vault group subscription page. Finally, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault technical support.

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Jacek Sliwinski
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Great talk. Has anyone the reference for the emotion regulation study, apparently with horror games? (wasn't in the references)

Alexander Tomasik
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I'd say that virtual reality simulator games are forms of escapism, but so is meditation; both benefit the mind by teaching one how to focus ones attention at one thing at a time but video games allow for an external feedback through the use of an electronic medium which benefits the participant by reflecting their state of mind and cognitive awareness at the time which helps guide the mind to the "zone" of optimum peak performance.

I agree that sitting is something that should be done less often than it is which leads me to speculate that ways of interacting with games in the near future will involve the body as one complete physical controller and will require the reintroduction of game arcades not only to recruit professional gaming athletes for professional leagues of gaming but to increase an interest for tournaments, teams and buying game equipment and game accessories as they become available. Technology for physical feedback systems such as this are available and only need to be assembled in the right way; I'd suggest a system similar to something along the lines of the Festo ExoHand.

The Festo ExoHand allows the wearer to experience a instantaneous and direct sensation of another physical spacial entity by using exoskeleton force-feedback to experience the existence of another object not there in the direct physical world. Similar methods could be used to create and entire exoskeleton for the purpose of virtual gaming. Once created professional gaming will meet the requirements of sport by being based on the physicality of the players involved and would also be an inciting inventive to gamers to become physically fit.

I can see video games being the great learning tool of a new era, where art and artists have unlimited possibilities in their creations and gamers can be and look like heroes, and why limit exercise to lifting things up and putting things down when you can subject your body to experiences that allow it to become honed in a way that's optimized by natural movements that'd be similar to the situation that'd be encountered in whatever situation you're in. Furthermore, anything is possible with the use of 3d scanning technology populating solar sized playable maps in ways that lead to unique and novel experiences that can change according to the players, designers or algorithms of the game.

I really enjoyed the presentation and am definitely going to read the book.