Making The World Better, Motivating Progress With Games

Jane McGonigal, a psychologist and game designer at The Institute for the Future,  thinks we can harness the power of games to solve real-world problems. Listen to her talk:  Gaming can make the world better.

Applying Dr. McGonigal's research, best-practices in game design would include these features:

  1. Positive Emotion: increasing the positive emotions in players that help them enjoy life, and that inspire them to lead epic real lives
  2. Relationships: building positive relationships with friends, family, colleagues, neighbors
  3. Meaning: connecting players to something bigger than themselves: a purpose, a mission, a collective goal or endeavor
  4. Accomplishment: giving players opportunities to do something that matters, to achieve in their daily lives

The game Free Rice a multiple choice format vocabulary game that, under normal circumstances, children might find "boring."  But in Free Rice, the child earns "free rice" for hungry people every time they score a correct answer. Some children play this game every day and never complain of being "bored."  Perhaps Free Rice is tapping in to McGonigal's four "best-practice" points (above). Clearly, it isn't so much the game task itself but the context of the game and the way the player thinks about the game that is driving motivation.

Is it really realistic to expect a game to support things like "positive emotion" and "relationships"?  Think about all the games that humans have played over the centuries, including some popular, modern (non-digital) games like chess, tennis and soccer. It is safe to say that these games (and just about ANY game you than imagine) builds "positive emotion" and "relationships" for some players, but certainly not for all players!  As with the example of Free Rice, above, it has more to do with the way the player thinks about the game than about the game itself.  If you listen to Jane McGonigal's TED Talk you can't help but be struck by the way she set herself up to think about games in a way that encouraged positive emotions.

 In his Forbes Magazine article, Three Essential Elements Of A Winning Mindset,  Bruse Kasanoff explains the motivating power of adding a GIVING opportunity to games.  

Here are some ideas for using Lexercise games practice-- not just to develop fast, automatic word processing skills-- but also to support positive emotions, a growth mindset and grit:

1. Compliment effort, not talent. (See Carol Dweck's MindSets research on the importance of praising effort above talent.) 

  • "Wow! You've done your practice every day this week!"
  • "I'm so impressed by how you didn't give up, even though the words on the new Practice Plan are harder!"
  • "I love the way you try again ever harder after a mistake!"
  • "Just look at all these points you earned today! That is a lot of hard work!"


2.  Bank Lex Points that the child earns playing his/her Lexercise Games and when he/she reaches a total of 100,000 Lex Points Lexercise will make a donation in the child's name to one of these charity partners. 

  • The International Dyslexia Association (to support dyslexia research)
  • The Dyslexia Services Foundation (to support services for a low-income child)
  • Your local library (to buy a book)

 Growth + Grit + Giving -- It's formula that can make all the difference in a child's life.... and has the power to truly change the world!

Contact us with your ideas about how to motivate practice while making the world better! 


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