Monday, March 29, 2010

How Can Gaming Save the World?

This is the question Jane McGonigal asks in her inspired Ted Talk, “Gaming Can Make a Better World”:

After launching On the Path of the Elders last week, it was rewarding to listen to McGonigal’s compelling talk. Not only does she reconfirm the value of gaming, but -- more importantly -- her argument speaks to many of the ideals at the heart of

McGonigal argues that gaming develops skills and beliefs vital for solving some of the world’s biggest challenges. In particular, she claims that gaming produces individuals with a strong conviction that they are capable of changing the world. Too often, however, these individuals limit their influence to a virtual landscape.

As game designers, educators, and role-models it is up to us to convince these gamers that their skills have real value: the same optimism, team-work, resourcefulness, and determination that makes gamers successful in online worlds can and must be brought to real world problems. 

But how much difference can gamers make?
McGonigal brings some hard-hitting statistics to the table:

  • Today, the average youth in a country that has a large gaming culture will have spent 10 000 hours playing online games by the age of 21 (to put that number in perspective, they will have spent 10 080 hours in school between grades 5 and 12).
  • Globally, we spend 3 billion hours a week playing online games.
  • There are currently 500 million virtuoso gamers (defined as people who have spent at least 10 000 hours gaming).
  • As gaming companies continue to expand globally, there will be a billion more virtuoso gamers in the next decade
In other words, the number of highly skilled gamers is increasing exponentially. If we don’t start figuring out how to use gamers’ abilities to solve real world problems, we’re wasting a huge resource. 

Our Vision

From the beginning, using gaming to solve real world problems has been one of the aims of On the Path of the Elders. It is our hope that will serve to:

  1. reconnect Aboriginal youths with their culture and history
  2. decrease Aboriginal youth suicide rates
  3. create a bridge between Non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal cultures
By promoting leadership, negotiation, and decision-making skills, will demonstrate to players that they have the ability to become advocates for change. We want youths to recognize their connection to a rich and vibrant culture, and realize that the skills they use in the role-playing games are the same skills needed to be leaders in their communities.

Building has been an intense, challenging, and thought-provoking journey. Speakers like Jane McGonigal remind us why we have invested so much of ourselves in this project and what might be its rewards for future generations.

Collette Jackson, Content and Marketing Specialist at BlackCherry Digital Media, is writing on behalf of On the Path of the Elders, a free online educational resource that explores Cree and Ojibway history and culture, and the signing of Treaty No. 9.

Check out On the Path of the Elders at

For more information, email us at

Created in partnership with BlackCherry Digital Media, Archives Deschâtelets, the Doug Ellis Collection at Carleton University, Our Incredible World (Pinegrove Productions), the Mushkegowuk Council, Neh Naak Ko, the Archives of St. Paul University, Carleton University, and Wendy Campbell, Educational Consultant (Learning Methods Group).

This project was made possible with the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Canadian Culture Online Strategy. Created with additional financial assistance from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and the Inukshuk Fund.

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