Soulja Jane

Jane McGonogal gave a memorable keynote but more positive reasons than the Zuckerberg/Lacey debacle. She is an alternate reality games (ARG) designer, professor at the Institute of the Future in Palo Alto; an űber-geek with infectious sense of fun and an engaging speaker. She produced A World without Oil, which won this year’s SXSW award for Activism. Her latest creation is The Lost Ring, an ARG for the Beijing Olympics. In sixty minutes she offered a game designers perspective on the future of happiness.


She has a positive view on gaming, quoting GS Elrick (1978), asserting that: “an alternate reality is another way of experiencing existence” not an alternative to life.

Positive Psychology is now big business (link to There’s numerous books on the subject:

Out of it psychologists have created ways of measuring happiness, such as:

  • The quality of life index
  • The happy planet index

A future forecast for 2013:

  • Quality of life becomes the primary metric for measuring success.
  • Communities form different visions of life worth living.
  • Value will be defined as a measurable increase, in real happiness.
  • Happiness is the new capital.

What do we mean by happiness?

  • Having satisfying work to do
  • The experience of being good at something
  • Time spent doing something you like
  • Being part of something bigger

Jane proffers that massively multiplayer online games are part of the happiness engine as they have:

  • Better instructions
  • Better feedback
  • Better community

We are witnessing a global mass exodus towards virtual worlds and game worlds. For many gamers it boils down to quality of life: virtuality is beating reality.

MMOs circa 2008 are like we’ve invented the written world but decided to produce only books. Her vision is to make the natural world more like the virtual world. Some MMOs already do offer that:

  • ChoreWars – parents motivate the children to accomplish real-world tasks which give them points in the virtual world.
  • Zyked – has a similar idea around motivating its users to exercise.
  • Seriosity – Has virtual currency to increase productivity in the office.
  • Citizen Logistics – People can see where you are, treating everyday reality like a game.
  • Trackstick – a personal GPS stick which records where you are in the world
  • SNIF – social network for dogs. Dogs are fitted with a GPS collar which records their location.

Games kill boredom, alienation, anxiety, depression.

Important factors in ARG/MMO game design are:

  1. Mobbability – the ability to collaborate at really large scales.
  2. Ping Quotient – the level of engagement
  3. Influency – the ability to adapt to different individuals
  4. Multi-capitalism – everyone wants a different return. Some want money, other want social capital.
  5. Cooperation Radar – the ability to sense almost intitively would make the best collobarators on a particular task. 
  6. Protovation – rabid motivation. Fail quickly and fail often to learn.
  7. Open authorship – comfort with giving content away.
  8. Signal-noise management – gamers handle so much noise deciding which out of the many available data-points they decide to act on.
  9. Long broading – think big picture
  10. Emergensight – ability to prepare for and handle suprising results and complexity


Important stuff

  1. Soon enough most of us will be in the happiness business.
  2. Games designers have a good head start
  3. Alternate realities signal the desire need & opportunity for us all to redesign reality for real quality of life.

A earlier version of the presentation is available on SlideShare.

Jane Dancing

During her presentation she mentioned she’d learnt the Soulja Boy dance, the audience shouted “Do it! Do it!”. “Ok” she said, “If you wait until the end, I will.”. She didn’t let us down. She popped and jived in time to Souja Boy to rapturous applause. If you want to learn the Soulja Boy dance yourself, check the instructional video below:



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