Can Online Computer Games Make a Better World?

Did you know that we invest 3 billion hours a week playing online video games?

Most people consider titles like World of Warcraft, Eve Online or Second Life the perfect time-wasters and associate them mainly with teenagers procrastinating in front of their LCD screens. And although spending endless hours on saving a virtual world from the hands of orcs, dark elves or other monsters may seem like it has little relevance to the real world, there are some benefits worth considering.

For a while now, we have been witnessing something unprecedented – the creation and development of multi-generational, trans-continental virtual networks of players who are completely immersed in their online world. Often to such an extent that the hobby becomes an addiction. On the flip side, we have also seen a rise of a new generation of anti-gamers who believe such pleasures to be the ultimate waste of time.

I believe that there are two big questions that need answering before we dig any deeper into the subject:

1. What is so appealing about those virtual worlds that keeps people engaged and immersed for years?

2. Can excessive online gaming actually be a positive thing (i.e. beneficial for those who play)?

Recently, I have stumbled upon this video. Let’s watch it to find out:

Games like World of Warcraft give players the means to save worlds, and incentive to learn the habits of heroes. What if we could harness this gamer power to solve real-world problems? Jane McGonigal says we can, and explains how.

Personally, I believe Jane’s philosophy to be way too optimistic. Instant feedback and continuous rewards may make people think they can solve problems in a virtual world, because most online games are built around the idea that the problems they involve are actually beatable. In real life, however, one’s odds of success are much smaller. Games let us feel we can do everything because they are built just to do that. Instant motivation and reward systems are in place to make sure players stay immersed in the game environment. From there, it is just a matter of the game design to utilise the player’s creativity or to hinder it with repetitive yet rewarding ‚grinding‚.

Grinding is a term used in video gaming to describe the process of engaging in repetitive and/or boring tasks not pertaining to the story line of the game. [form Wikipedia]

The fact of the matter is that most people do not go into gaming with the intent of solving real-life problems. The thinking here is exactly opposite. We tend to use computer entertainment to distance ourselves from everyday life. It is in the capable hands of such people as Jane McGonigal to finally start harnessing what’s already there – people spending literally billions of hours playing games out of enjoyment.



1. procrastinate – [ENG] delay or postpone action; put off doing something – [PL] odwlekać, zwlekać, obijać się

2. relevance – [ENG] being closely related to the matter – [PL] związek ze sprawą

3. multi-generational – [ENG] involving many generations – [PL] wielopokoleniowy

4. immerse – [ENG] to involve deeply in the matter – [PL] zanurzyć, pogrążyć

5. extent – [ENG] area, degree, size – [PL] rozmiar, zakres, stopień

6. on the flip side – [ENG] on the other side – [PL] z drugiej strony

7. appealing – [ENG] interesting, engaging – [PL] przemiawiające do kogoś, zachęcające

8. beneficial – [ENG] having a good result – [PL] zyskowny

9. incentive – [ENG] a thing that motivates or encourages one to do something – [PL] zachęta

10. harness – [ENG] control and make use of – [PL] okiełznać, wykorzystać

11. odds – [ENG] chances – [PL] szanse

12. hinder – [ENG] create difficulties, make harder – [PL] gasić, utrudniać

13. literally – [ENG] exactly – [PL] – dosłownie


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