Jane McGonigal

Director of Game Research and Development, Institute for the Future | Bestselling Author of "SuperBetter, Reality Is Broken", and "Imaginable" | World-renowned game designer
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Jane McGonigal is a futurist, game designer, and bestselling author. As the Director of Game Research and Development at the Institute for the Future, her research focuses on how games are transforming the way we lead our real lives and how they can be used to anticipate hard-to-predict futures, ready ourselves for any future scenario, and increase our resilience and well-being.

The games she designs, from world-renown apps like SuperBetter to custom mini-games used in her interactive presentations, challenge players to tackle real-world problems such as their own symptoms of anxiety, depression, and chronic pain as well as larger societal issues including poverty, hunger, and climate change. Her games have been used by organizations including the World Bank, the New York Public Library, the International Olympics Committee, and the American Heart Association.

Combining decades of psychological and neurological research with extensive gaming expertise, Jane’s books bring to light the power that games have on us and the world at large. Her newest book, Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything – Even Things That Seem Impossible Today, teaches us how to train our brains to think the unthinkable and imagine the unimaginable using the same tools she used to predict the COVID-19 pandemic. SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient, which debuted at #7 on the New York Times Advice bestsellers list, explains how we can cultivate resilience in everyday life by bringing the same psychological strengths we naturally display when gaming to our real-world goals. In her bestselling first book, Reality Is Broken: How Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change The World, Jane reveals how we can use the lessons of game design to fix what is wrong with the real world and ultimately make humans happier.

Jane is a two-time winner of the Association of Professional Futurists’ Most Important Futures Work of the Year award and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. She was named one of 50 people making the biggest impact in games by Game Developer Magazine and one of 20 most inspiring women in the world by O Magazine. She received her PhD in performance studies from University of California at Berkeley.


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. Whether your goal is bettering your mental and physical health, transforming learning and education, or strengthening your business and beyond, gaming can help you achieve it.

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Urgent Optimism

How often do you think about the future? Is what you imagine sunny or quite bleak? Or perhaps just a blank space, a void? Futurist and game designer Jane McGonigal wants you to think about the future with intention and become resilient in the face of uncertainty through urgent optimism. Urgent optimism is not a fixed personality trait that only the lucky are born with. It is a mindset that can be built in even the world’s most anxious pessimists with practice and the proper tools. In this high-energy, interactive talk, Jane will introduce you to the concepts of mental flexibility, realistic hope, and future power so that you can “unstick” your mind, find balance in the ups and downs, and discover the agency you have to make change. Through science-backed games designed by McGonigal herself, you’ll be asked to think about what could be different in the future and assess whether you are prepared for it. You’ll learn fascinating insights on why our brains have such a hard time anticipating certain kinds of futures and the neuroscience behind removing those mental blocks in order to think the unthinkable and imagine the unimaginable so you can be ready for the next great disruption.

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How to Make Friends with the Future

When you think about your future self, your brain does something weird: It stops acting as if you’re thinking about yourself. Instead, it starts acting as if you’re thinking about a completely different person, someone you don't know very well and, frankly, someone you don't like very much. This glitchy brain behavior makes it harder to take actions that benefit our future selves, or future society. But new research suggests a way to change how your brain reacts to the future. In this session, the Institute for the Future's Director for Game Research + Development Jane McGonigal will show you how to make friends with your future self — and help you sharpen your foresight to think more creatively about the possibilities for tomorrow.

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The game that can give you 10 extra years of life | TED
Jane McGonigal
The Future of Imagination | Aspen Ideas Festival
Jane McGonigal
The First 5 Minutes of the Future | Institute for the Future
Jane McGonigal
Taking Gaming a Step Further Than 4 Years Ago | WLS 2018
Jane McGonigal
Mind Hack: Combat Anxiety with This Breathing Technique
Jane McGonigal
Massively multi-player… thumb-wrestling?
Jane McGonigal
Jane McGonigal describes her new book IMAGINABLE
Jane McGonigal
IFTF Ten-Year Forecast 2023 Q2: Reimagining Learning—Scenario Club Grand Challenge
Jane McGonigal
How to Think (and Learn) Like a Futurist | SXSWedu Keynote
Jane McGonigal
How Gaming Makes You Resilient
Jane McGonigal
Heal your brain with video games
Jane McGonigal
A practical approach to problem solving | Danish Maritime Forum
Jane McGonigal


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This is how to see the future (and 5 ways to be ready for anything)
Fast Company
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The Craft of Forecasting Our Possible Futures: A Conversation with Jane McGonigal
Behavioral Scientist
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How to predict the future
The TED Interview
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10 Years Ago, She Predicted COVID> Here's What She's Worried About Next
Next Big Idea Club



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Mental Health
Technology Transforming Healthcare
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Artificial Intelligence
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