Rethinking Productivity – Jane McGonigal Speaks at The School of Life

Jane McGonigal – On Productivity from The School of Life on Vimeo.

The video is Jane McGonigal’s talk at The School of Life about productivity. She begins the speech by getting everyone to write a few things they need to get done this week that would be productive and what would be the result of accomplishing that goal. After about thirty seconds, she stops everyone and asks what are their goals and outcomes. Then she tells everyone to make an airplane out of the list and throw it.

Jane’s focus during the talk is to have people rethink about what is productivity. She tells the story about the time when she was rushing around the apartment getting a lot of stuff done such as: cleaning the house for her dad who was coming to visit and writing a book. It was during this rushing around that she had a concussion. After the concussion Jane couldn’t read or write for a while and couldn’t do many other tasks that she needed to do. One of the symptoms that she had was suicidal thoughts. She began to question her definition of productivity because she couldn’t really accomplish anything that she considered productive. That was the time when Jane decided that she was either going to either kill herself or turn what she was going through into a game. She decided the latter option and created a game called SuperBetter.

One of the points that Jane makes is that people spend many hours playing video games. She estimates that people around the world play games about 3 billion hours every week. If people believe that playing games is unproductive, then there is a big problem to solve.

She believes that games are productive and produce four things. The first one is a sense of wholehearted engagement. Some game designers say that games are the opposite of depression because depression creates a pessimistic view of our own capabilities and a huge lack of interest for doing anything. Games seem to be the opposite of depression because they create a sense of positiveness and confidence for the player. Even if they fail many times they’ll often feel like they can still accomplish the goal of the game.

The second thing is that games produce a sense of optimism. Gamers get a realistic feel that they can accomplish their mission. Jane mentions a very interesting result from a research showing that gamers spend about 80% of their time failing.

The third thing is that games give an opportunity to develop social relationships. Some research shows that we spend about 65% of our time playing games in a socially. Either in the same room or online, we spend a lot of our time playing with people that we already know. Another interesting point is that research shows that we tend to trust people more after we play a game with them, even if they beat us.

The last of these four things is that games produce the sense of creating something bigger than ourselves. One example of this is that the second biggest wiki in the internet is the World of Warcraft wiki, only behind Wikipedia.

Jane mentions that in positive psychology there’s research about how do people “flourish”, how do they become happy. They have come up with four secrets to flourishing. They make up a acronym “PERMA”, which means Positive Emotion Relationship Meaning Accomplishment.

To show PERMA in use, Jane gets everyone in the room to play massively multiplayer thumb wrestling. It’s very interesting to see the whole room thumb wrestling. To see it, skip to around minute 31.

Jane tells the story of King Atys of Lybia. There was a 18 year famine and the people survived by playing games during a whole day and not eating, then the next day, they would eat and wouldn’t play any games. Using this method, the people survived during the famine.

Jane ends the talk by raising the awareness about how games aren’t only a method for escaping your problems but that you can actually change the way we live and how we solve problems.

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