Fast Company's 1000 Most Creative People in Business 2014

Jane McGonigal is today's leading speaker on the engagement economy and the application of game-design to the real world. She has created games for organizations such as the World Bank, the Olympic Games, the American Heart Association, the New York Public Library, and many more.

Jane is notable for bringing gaming to the healthcare space. Her best-known project is SuperBetter, a mobile app and web-based game that helps individuals challenge personal health challenges (depression, anxiety, chronic pain, stress reduction), and get support from their "allies" — real-life friends and family. With more than 400,000 players, it is currently under study at OSU Medical Center and the University of Pennsylvania. Jane's other healthcare games include collaborations with the American Heart Association and the Myelin Repair Foundation.

Her book, SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient (debuted at #7 on the New York Times Advice bestsellers list), reveals a decade’s worth of scientific research into the ways all games change how we respond to stress, challenge, and pain. She shares stories and data from players who have followed the SuperBetter rules to get stronger, happier, and braver in the face of depression, anxiety, illness, and injury.

Her previous book, Reality Is Broken: How Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change The World, is a New York Times bestseller. In this engaging, forward-thinking book, Jane makes the case that the gamer spirit — an attitude of fun, dedicated, collective problem-solving — is our greatest asset as we face the social, economic, and environmental problems of the 21st century.

Jane herself is a specialist in this field, a designer of alternate reality games, where a real-life activity is re-framed as a game. Players of Jane's games face challenges as serious as surviving peak oil or establishing local sustainable businesses. And they face them with courage and creativity, inspired by their gameful state of mind. Persistence, energy, collaborative creativity, a sense of purpose in hard work — games unlock all of these powerful attitudes. And, most importantly of all, this approach restores to contemporary life the kind of heroism and communal striving that most of us struggle so hard to find.

She serves as the Director of Game Research & Development with the Institute For The Future in Palo Alto, California. Her recent projects include a Games for Healthcare initiative with IFTF and the White House as well as Paths Out Of Poverty, a crowdsourcing game by IFTF for the Rockefeller Foundation.

Credentials and Honors

  • 2013's Entrepreneurial Women to Watch, Entrepreneur
  • Director of Game Research & Development, Institute For The Future, a non-profit futures research group based in Palo Alto, California
  • Author of the New York Times bestsellers, SuperBetter and Reality Is Broken
  • PhD, University of California at Berkeley in performance studies
  • “Young Global Leader” and featured speaker at the Annual Meeting at Davos, World Economic Forum (2012) 2-time winner of the Most Important Futures Work of the Year from the Association of Professional Futurists (2010, 2012)
  • #1 Social Impact Game of the Year, Games for Change (2011)
  • Honored by Game Developer Magazine as one of the 50 people making the biggest impact in games
  • One of Top 10 Scientists To Watch for 2011, The New York Times
  • Creativity Magazine's Creativity 50 2011
  • Named by Oprah Winfrey as one of the twenty most inspiring women in the world, O Magazine, 2010


These are topics that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest the speakers range and interests.

Jane tailors each presentation to the needs of her audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

How to Think Like a Futurist

Unlock the power of your audience's imagination with this master class in futures thinking based on the popular Stanford University course

Thinking about the far-off future isn’t just a fun exercise in curiosity. It’s a practical skill that, new scientific research reveals, primes your brain for greater creativity, empathy, and optimism. In other words, futurist thinking gives you the ability to create change in your own life and the world around you, today.

In this interactive session from master game designer and acclaimed futurist Jane McGonigal, you’ll learn and practice three futures thinking habits that will improve your powers of imagination. McGonigal has developed these habits using her expertise as a game designer so they are easy to learn, fun to practice, and lead directly to "leveling up" your creative problem-solving skills.

Along the way, you'll also hear about the latest breakthrough findings in the neuroscience of creativity and how thinking about the future improves your brain's ability to invent, innovate and adapt to change.

"In order to create something new or make a change, you have to be able to imagine how things can be different. And the future is a place where everything can be different."

The Engagement Economy

The neuroscience of games reveals how you can motivate and empower any community to achieve extraordinary "epic wins"

Jane’s talk looks at:

  • the neuroscience of games that drives unprecedented engagement
  • how they create behavior change (particularly around physical activity and social interaction)
  • how they create a learning culture (key audience: educators)
  • the connection between play and mental health (anxiety, depression)
  • what it can teach us about building a better work culture (for business audiences)
  • why augmented reality is a better engagement tool than virtual reality

This talk includes a deep dive into the design of Pokemon Go, the most successful game launch in the history of the world. With 100 million daily users in less than 30 days, Pokemon Go is not only the fastest downloaded app in history, it's the fastest growing product of any kind in the history of the world. That makes it essential to understand — why do people love it, and what is the neuroscience behind the way it is changing people's behavior so dramatically.Jane sets up lures at the talk so audiences could play the game if they hadn't yet — it is a hands-on experience for the audience. As Jane explains, “you can't understand what it feels like to have your brain activated by a game unless you play it yourself” — so add this hands-on component to a session!

Learning is an Epic Win

Why gaming is the future of learning.

Why don’t our learning platforms work more like a game? In the best designed games, our engagement is perfectly optimized: we have important work to do, we’re surrounded by potential collaborators, and we learn quickly and in a low-risk environment. When we’re playing a good online game, we get constant useful feedback, we turbo-charge the neurochemistry that makes challenge fun, and we feel an insatiable curiosity about the world around us. None of this is by accident. In fact, game developers have spent the past three decades figuring out how to make us more optimistic and more likely to collaborate, how to make problem-solving more fun and social, and how to satisfy our hunger for meaning and success. And all of these game-world insights can be applied directly to amplify and augment the way we teach, learn, and do research in the real world. You’ll learn how online game design and game theory can transform our learning communities — and help re-invent higher education as we know it.

Gaming and Youth

Why videogames are making young people better — and preparing them to change the real world.

The average young person racks up 10,000 hours of gaming by the age of 21. That’s 24 hours less than they spend in a classroom for all of middle and high school if they have perfect attendance. But the good news is: These 10,000 hours aren’t an escapist waste of time. Gaming is a productive part of young people’s lives — it produces positive emotion, stronger social relationships, a sense of accomplishment, and for players who become a part of a bigger online community, a chance to build up a sense of meaning and purpose. Scientific research shows that all of these feelings and activities can trickle into our real lives and impact our real-life confidence, ambition, likability and willingness to help others. In fact, when we play a good game, especially multi-player games, we become the best version of ourselves: the most optimistic, most creative, most focused, most collaborative, the most likely to set ambitious goals, the most resilient in the face of failure.

Why Games Make Us Better

How games can help us achieve extraordinary goals.

We spend 3 billion hours a week as a planet playing computer and videogames — and these 3 billion hours are far from an escapist waste of time. Gaming is actually one of the most productive ways we can spend our time — it produces positive emotion, stronger social relationships, a sense of accomplishment, and for players who become a part of a bigger online community, a chance to build up a sense of meaning and purpose. Scientific research shows that all of these feelings and activities can trickle into our real lives and impact our real-life confidence, ambition, likability and willingness to help others. In fact, when we play a good game, especially multiplayer games, we become the best version of ourselves: the most optimistic, most creative, most focused, most collaborative, the most likely to set ambitious goals, the most resilient in the face of failure. In this talk, find out how you can unlock the power of games to achieve extraordinary goals in your real life — and how gaming can become a source of innovation and collaboration for your most important work.

Games for Health — or How to Get SuperBetter

Find out how games can be used to transform healthcare and create "epic wins" for patients. Drawing on the latest clinical trials and peer-reviewed research, Jane McGonigal, PhD explains how games build positive health assets, such as resilience, optimism and self-efficacy. She explores how games can be used as a powerful tool for behavior change, particularly in tackling chronic and lifestyle-related challenges such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease. She will demonstrate how to create stronger social support systems through games to speed recovery from injury and illness. And she will share her own research on how games can increase longevity — by creating physical, mental, social and emotional habits that lead to 10 extra years of healthy life.

  • SuperBetter

    A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient — Powered by the Science of Games

    A remarkable life plan developed from the program four hundred thousand people have used to recover from setbacks and injuries and achieve personal growth

    In 2009, internationally renowned game designer Jane McGonigal suffered a severe concussion. Unable to think clearly, or work, or even get out of bed, she became anxious and depressed, even suicidal — a common symptom for concussion sufferers. But rather than let herself sink further, she decided to get better by doing what she does best: she turned her recovery process into a resilience-building game. What started as a simple motivational exercise became a set of rules for "post-traumatic growth" that she shared on her blog. These rules led to a digital game and a major research study with the National Institutes of Health. Today nearly half a million people have played SuperBetter to get stronger, happier and healthier.

    But the life-changing ideas behind SuperBetter are much bigger than just one game. In this book, McGonigal reveals a decade’s worth of scientific research into the ways all games change how we respond to stress, challenge, and pain. She explains how we can cultivate new powers of recovery and resilience in everyday life simply by adopting a more "gameful" mindset. Being gameful means bringing the same psychological strengths we naturally display when we play games — such as optimism, creativity, courage, and determination — to real-world goals.

    Drawing on hundreds of scientific studies, McGonigal shows that getting superbetter is as simple as tapping into the three core psychological strengths that games help you build: 

    • Your ability to control your attention, and therefore your thoughts and feelings
    • Your power to turn anyone into a potential ally, and to strengthen your existing relationships, and
    • Your natural capacity to motivate yourself and super-charge your heroic qualities, like willpower, compassion and determination

    SuperBetter the book contains nearly 100 playful challenges anyone can undertake while reading, in order to build these gameful strengths. It includes stories and data from people who have used the SuperBetter method to get stronger in the face of illness, injury, and other major setbacks, as well as to achieve goals like losing weight, running a marathon, and finding a new job.

    As inspiring as it is down to earth, and grounded in rigorous research, SuperBetter is a proven game plan for a better life. You’ll never say that something is “just a game” again.

    Penguin Press (Jan 2016)

    Audio Interview

    7 ways gaming can improve your life — CBC Radio


    “After reading Jane McGonigal’s SuperBetter I’ll never again say that something is ‘only a game.’ SuperBetter gives readers the tools to take the same challenge mindset we bring to playing the games we love and apply it to facing our greatest life challenges.  The result is a clear path, not just to post-traumatic recovery, but to post-traumatic growth. In every sense a game-changing book.”
    – Susan Cain, author of The Power of Quiet

    "Many of us struggle to overcome challenges that seem overwhelming. Jane McGonigal has taken her immense knowledge of the science of gaming to create a innovative guide that allowed her to overcome her greatest challenge and now, thankfully, is available to each of us to overcome our own."

    — James R. Doty, M.D., Professor of Neurosurgery, Stanford University School of Medicine

    "Until you understand yourselves as the hero of your own story, you'll never make a dent in the world. This insightful book shows you how create the life of your dreams, using a gameful approach."
    – Nilofer Merchant, Silicon Valley CEO and author of The New How

    “Hundreds of thousands of people have had their lives changed by following Jane McGonigal’s SuperBetter program, and now I see why. It’s a marriage of all of the breakthrough wisdom of the positive psychology movement with the pioneering insights of cutting-edge game design into how and why people do what they do.  As life hacks go, this is one of the most profound imaginable: a game plan for profound growth in the face of whatever challenges life throws at you — and whatever ones you can conceive to throw at yourself!”
    — Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit

    "Jane McGonigal's book is an inspiring one about overcoming personal obstacles and a revolutionary testament that game playing is for ANYONE who wants to change their life for the better.  What better way to become stronger braver and happier than to"play with a purpose?"  And if you don't know what that means, get will."
    – Stacy London, host What Not to Wear and author of The Truth About Style

  • Reality Is Broken

    Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

    Visionary game designer Jane McGonigal reveals how we can harness the power of games to solve real world problems and boost global happiness.

    More than 174 million Americans are gamers, and the average young person in the United States will spend ten thousand hours gaming by the age of 21. According to world-renowned game designer Jane McGonigal, the reason for this mass exodus to virtual worlds is that videogames are increasingly fulfilling genuine human needs. In this groundbreaking exploration of the power and future of gaming, McGonigal reveals how we can use the lessons of game design to fix what is wrong with the real world.

    Drawing on positive psychology, cognitive science and sociology, Reality is Broken uncovers how game designers have hit on core truths about what makes us happy, and utilized these discoveries to astonishing effect in virtual environments. Videogames consistently provide the exhilarating rewards, stimulating challenges and epic victories that are so often lacking in the real world. But why, McGonigal asks, should we use the power of games for escapist entertainment alone? Her research suggests that gamers are expert problem solvers and collaborators, since they cooperate with other players to overcome daunting virtual challenges, and she helped pioneer a fast-growing genre of games that aims to turn gameplay to socially positive ends.

    In Reality is Broken, she reveals how these new Alternate Reality Games are already improving the quality of our daily lives, fighting social problems like depression and obesity, and addressing vital 21st century challenges — and she forecasts the thrilling possibilities that lie ahead. She introduces us to games like World Without Oil, a simulation designed to brainstorm — and therefore avert — the challenges of a worldwide oil shortage, and Evoke, a game commissioned by the World Bank Institute that sends players on missions to address issues from poverty to climate change.

    McGonigal persuasively argues that those who continue to dismiss games will be at a major disadvantage in the coming years. Gamers, on the other hand, will be able to leverage the collaborative and motivational power of games in their own lives, communities, and businesses. Written for gamers and non-gamers alike, Reality is Broken shows us that the future will belong to those who can understand, design and play games.

    Penguin paperback (Dec. 27, 2011)
    Penguin, (January 20, 2011)


    Super Mario managementThe Economist
    The Computer Made Me Do ItThe New York Times
    Book clubPAX sims
    The Dwindling Difference Between Play and WorkThe Millions


    "Jane is a kind of secret weapon. Her work is seminal, and those of us who track new social interactions have had her work on our 'must-read' list for years. … The most remarkable thing about Jane's work is that even the extreme conclusions are backed up by careful extrapolation of visible forces: when she says 'Reality, compared to games, is broken', that is both a radical statement and a basic observation about the lived experience of millions. When she proposes turning the energy around gameplay to socially positive ends, she is outlining an effort at once astonishing and achievable. It's this kind of work — grounded, accessible and dramatic — that makes her so important."
    — Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody

    "Jane's work has helped define a new medium, one that blends reality and fantasy and puts the lie to the idea that there is such a thing as 'fiction' — we live every story we experience and we become every game we play. Her insights have the elegant, compact, deadly simplicity of plutonium, and the same explosive force."
    — Cory Doctorow, New York Times bestselling author of Little Brother and co-editor of BoingBoing

    "Reality Is Broken will both stimulate your brain and stir your soul. Once you read this remarkable book, you’ll never look at games — or yourself — quite the same way."
    — Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind

    "The world has no shortage of creative people with interesting ideas. What it lacks are people who can apply them in ways that really make a difference, and inspire others to do the same. Jane McGonigal is the rare person who delivers on both."
    — Tony Hsieh, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Delivering Happiness and C.E.O. of, Inc.

    "Reality Is Broken is the most eye-opening book I read this year. With awe-inspiring expertise, clarity of thought, and engrossing writing style, Jane McGonigal cleanly exploded every misconception I’ve ever had about games and gaming. If you thought that games are for kids, that games are squandered time, or that games are dangerously isolating, addictive, unproductive, and escapist, you are in for a giant surprise!"
    — Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want

    "Wonder why we love games? McGonigal has written the best take yet on the deep joys of play — and how to use that force for good. Reality is Broken is a rare beast: A book that’s both philosophically rich and completely practical. It will change the way you see the world."
    — Clive Thompson, contributing writer for Wired and The New York Times Magazine

    "The path to becoming happier, improving your business, and saving the world might be one and the same: understanding how the world’s best games work. Think learning about Halo can’t help your life or your company? Think again."
    — Tim Ferriss, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek

    "Jane McGonigal’s uncanny vision and snappy writing give all of us a plausible glimpse of a positive human future, and how gaming — of all things — will take us there."
    — Martin Seligman, author of Flourish and Authentic Happiness

    "Jane McGonigal's groundbreaking research offers a surprising solution to how we can build stronger communities and collaborate at extreme scales: by playing bigger and better games. And no one knows more about how to design world-changing games than McGonigal. Reality Is Broken is essential reading for anyone who wants to play a hand in inventing a better future."
    — Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia

    "Forget everything you know, or think you know, about online gaming. Like a blast of fresh air, Reality is Broken blows away the tired stereotypes and reminds us that the human instinct to play can be harnessed for the greater good. With a stirring blend of energy, wisdom and idealism, Jane McGonigal shows us how to start saving the world one game at a time."
    — Carl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slowness and Under Pressure

  • The Future of Imagination | Aspen Ideas Festival
  • The game that can give you 10 extra years of life | TED
  • How to Think (and Learn) Like a Futurist | SXSWedu Keynote
  • The Future of Learning | ATEA
  • Massively multi-player... thumb-wrestling?
  • Innovative Education Forum

  • Become more resilient with these "SuperBetter" quests | CBS News
  • A practical approach to problem solving | Danish Maritime Forum

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