McGonigal: “Games Are Like Soap”

Jane McGonigal speaking at SXSW, as excerpted in amusingly out-of-context way from this report:

“Games are like soap,” McGonigal said. She thinks we should have them in every building and in our pockets. “Except we’re not killing germs, we’re killing boredom.”

The actual context is that soap has been around since the Romans, but only the hygienic awareness of last few hundred years have put it everywhere to combat disease. McGonigal sees a parallel with a ubiquitous game culture: “Why don’t we have games everywhere to kill lack of engagement, anxiety, lack of confidence, depression?” And I think that’s already happening in some ways, and it is valuable. Anxiety and boredom might not be fashionable conditions for society to deal with, but they’re enormously important. Oh God, it’s another topic from my yet-to-be-released book. (Hey, you can pre-order it on Amazon.) I wish these things came out a little faster. I spent the last year listening to game people give lectures and then saying “Yeah, I said that in my book, that ONLY MY EDITOR HAS READ.” Further notes from McG’s talk can be found over at Clickable Culture.


  1. Dean says:

    She said the same thing at her GDC Developers Rant.

    OMFG! People recycle talks!

  2. Jim Rossignol says:

    Ha, so she did. Well, I always tell the story about Kieron dressing up as a mime to review Deus Ex 2 when I meet new groups of people. Same thing, I guess.

  3. Muzman says:

    Am I an old fart or does making everything into a game to be “fun” and “Give happiness” sound like the creepiest most Brave New World thing I have heard in a long time? It took thrity-odd years for us to start to turn against fast food. I wonder how convenient gaming as marketing will do. (and do you need ads to create awareness of your ARG, or are they another ARG? Isn’t your life already an ARG? -soothing voice- It’s all too much to think about isn’t it. Just relax and play the game-/soothingvoice-. I think I’ve gotten a image of some hellish dimension created by Philip K Dick and Marshall McLuhan colliding at great speed)

  4. Craig says:

    I can honestly say the Jane McGonigal montage header is the greatest thing RPS has ever linked me to.

  5. Leeks! says:

    Not to sound like an internet guy, but is she… well, does it look like she’s naked in that last one to anyone else?

  6. Jim Rossignol says:

    Bad reader! Back in your box!

  7. Matt says:

    Did anyone else’s brain flip to the Simpsons upon seeing the name McGonigal?

    Timmy: Mr. McGonigal? I’m scared.
    McGonigal: Timmy, I need you to testify. Can you do it for me, your pal, McGonigal?
    Timmy: OK, for you McGonigal.

    Chief: Thanks to you McGonigal, little Timmy is dead!

    Or perhaps I’ve seen one episode too many.

  8. Winterborn says:

    Your book has an insanely beautiful cover. I encourage everyone to follow that link just to look at it.

    Also the description sold me, I’ll be buying it as soon as it’s out.

  9. Dracko says:

    That counterpoint doesn’t understand what boredom is.

  10. James T says:

    The Escapist in poorly-conceived logorrhoea shocker!

  11. LongFred says:

    Like a hool friend of mine put it:

    “Not everyone’s content with playing the PS2 and jerking off to internet porn.”

  12. Okami says:

    Do you mean “school friend” and just wrote it wron? Or do you really mean “beating up people for fun” hool?

  13. hungSolo says:

    @Dracko: Fair point, if we’d rather define boredom as a state of aimlessness or ennui. Terminology aside, both writers (or one writer and one speaker) describe dissatisfaction and disengagement with the world as it is. Their prescriptions are creating artificial rewards for behavior and reevaluation of one’s own priorities, respectively.

  14. Father Tutch says:

    Have you seen what she’s doing with cookies? <3

  15. Omnibus: March 16th - 22nd | Rock, Paper, Shotgun: Pretentious, moi? says:

    […] Mass Effect PC coverage. Jim reviews Soulstorm. Nine years of Everquest. Tired. So Tired. Jane McGonigal claims games are like soap. They’re more like mud. Dirty! Amusing Pontiac advert. Based on Spy Hunter. Prey 2. Some […]