However, at this point the presentation breaks down. McGonigal then proceeds to think of ways gamers can be used to do things (which plays well with the users at TED). While I give her props for thinking about ways to generate ideas on how to fix global problems, she entirely misses the big idea.

Here’s the big idea. For active online gamers real life is broken. It doesn’t make any sense. Effort isn’t connected to reward. The path forward is confused, convoluted, and contradictory. Worse, there’s a growing sense that the entire game is being corrupted to ensure failure. So, why play it?

They don’t. They retreat to online games. Why? Online games provide an environment that connects what you do (work, problem solving, effort, motivation level, merit) in the game to rewards (status, capabilities, etc.). These games also make it simple to get better (learn, skill up, etc.) through an intuitive just-in-time training system. The problem is that this is virtual fantasy.

So the really big idea isn’t figuring out how to USE online gamers for real world purposes (as in the dirty word: crowdsourcing — the act of other people to do work for you for FREE — blech!). Instead, it’s about finding a way to use online games to make real life better for the gamers. In short, turn games into economic darknets that work in parallel and better than the broken status quo systems. As in: economic games that connect effort with reward. Economic games with transparent rules that tangibly improve the lives of all of the players in the REAL WORLD.

Global Guerrillas: Online Games, Super Empowerment, and a Better World

See also:

How to make an addictive video game

Jane McGonigal interview at WorldChanging