Why We’re Urgently Optimistic About Games and Play

It turns out designing games is just as fun as playing them!

It turns out designing games is just as fun as playing them!

By Steve Boller, Bottom-Line Performance Inc.

Games change us. They change our brains and they change how we think. They put us in the middle of situations we would have never imagined or expected and allow us to make choices and decisions we never thought possible. Games offer a safe place to feel uncomfortable, a controlled place to experience the chaos of real life. But can games lead us to meaningful SOCIAL change?

“Games offer a safe place to feel uncomfortable, a controlled place to experience the chaos of real life.”

Science now gives us plenty of reasons to trust in the power of games for learning. Renowned author and game designer Jane McGonigal, creator of many fantastic games, including the “SuperBetter” app for meeting fitness, recovery, and mental health goals, recently shared her collection of research supporting the use of games for learning and personal growth. Jane is a passionate advocate of “games for change,” and her 2010 TED Talk “Gaming Can Make a Better World” has been viewed by millions.

We feel we are as good in reality as in games. In game worlds we are the best version of ourselves possible. When we face obstacles and failure in real life, we feel overcome, overhwelmed, anxious, depressed, cynical. These emotions just do not exist in games. What about this in games makes it impossible to feel that we can’t achieve everything? (Jane McGonigal)

A mind at play is a powerful thing. New options become open…new connections are made. If we can change our minds through playing games, perhaps we can change our world, too. Our company, Bottom-Line Performance, designs learning experiences for all sorts of people…but we want to put our skills to work in benefiting the community. The Spirit & Place Festival, now in its 17th year, is the perfect setting to do just that. The festival has explored many themes over the years, but this year’s theme is Play. Organizations of all shapes and sizes will be sharing and playing with one another from November 2nd to 11th, and we can’t wait to see what kind of “urgent optimism” we can cook up together.

But we hope the fun does not stop when the events are over. Our game, A Paycheck Away , explores issues surrounding systemic homelessness in Indianapolis. We’re currently developing and testing our game, trying to find the sweet spot between fun and impactful. Will a room full of minds at play be motivated to make a difference? We don’t know, but we’re urgently optimistic.