When she was announced as the keynote speaker, I had heard bits and pieces about her and mostly about her book: Reality is Broken. Well, being the good, prepared scholar that I am, I decided to read it. It helped that the husband decided to buy it and let me have a go at it first! I was hooked in about a paragraph and spent most of the next couple of weeks using every spare moment to finish it. Well, that’s not entirely true. I had to keep stopping to take notes on the great material in there!
Jane’s basic thesis from the book is that people use games as a way to escape from a reality that doesn’t fulfill our needs, and that we should harness the power of games to shape reality to improve ourselves and our world. Just from reading the book, I was already thinking about how games shape me, how to use games to improve myself, and how to incorporate gaming into college education to help engage the newest generation of college students. She might have inspired me to download a vocabulary game onto my new-to-me Droid instead of Angry Birds. I might just be a nerd. The jury’s still out.
So, a bit more about our Geeky Woman Role Model. She’s academic and has a PhD in Performance Studies from UC Berkeley and she taught some game design and play courses in the area. She’s helped to develop numerous games for various situations and companies. She’s currently the Director of Games Research and Development at the Institute for the Future. She forcasts the future! How cool is that? She gives talks about games all around the world and around the internets. Her TED talk is ranked #16 All Time Most Engaging TED Talk (which is one higher than Bill Gates!). She also visited with Colbert pretty recently. The remainder of Jane’s incredible achievements can be found on her Bio page.
Of course, what really makes her a Geeky Woman Role Model in my mind is that she doesn’t just want games to be fun and engaging, but she wants games to change the world. It is her goal to see a game developer win the Nobel Peace Prize someday. That’s an incredible, or to use one of Jane’s favorite words: Epic, goal. She has already put effort into games like that such as World Without Oil and Cruel 2 B Kind. These ideas are also inspired by Buddhist philosophies like ending suffering on Earth. Buddhism can be pretty geeky, right?
So, you should read her book, Reality is Broken, and if you are fortunate enough to be visiting PAX East this weekend, first, say hi to me, but second, make sure you check out her keynote. She says that it’s going to be about the science of gaming and why that makes gamers awesome. Science and gaming? I think that might be my favorite intersection! Either way, Jane McGonigal intersects with awesome as a single perfect circle, and that’s why she is the Geeky Woman Role Model for March!
See you at PAX, Jane!