Videogames are a Surefire Way to Building Engagement and Resilience

I was simultaneously thumb wrestling one-on-one with a bearded business executive and a group of fellow attendees during a keynote at Canada 3.0.

Needless to say, Canada 3.0 was one of the more unusual conferences I’d attended. In terms of substance, Canada 3.0 featured the new industrial revolution, insights into content marketing, and how gaming could be the medium that saves businesses tons of wages.


Around the world, we spend 300 million minutes a day playing Angry Birds. The average Call of Duty player spends 170 hours per year playing. That’s the equivalent of a month of full-time work annually.

In contrast, according to a Gallup survey from 2012, 75% of North American workers are not engaged. These workers are costing North American companies $400Bn annually.

When you think about it, we are willingly doing work—performing difficult tasks with our minds and wrestling with challenges—through videogames. The challenge is tying the supply of work and engagement with employers’ demands; this is what game designer and published author Jane McGonigal calls, “The Engagement Economy,” in which businesses are competing for the time, energy, passion of seven billion people around the world.

Around mid-way into her speech, McGonigal introduced all attendees to her favourite game: massively multiplayer thumb wrestling. This game hilariously connected every individual in the room together, and showed us why games are so engaging: they elicit 10 positive emotions, usually many at the same time:

10. Joy/delight;

9. Relief;

8. Love;

7. Surprise;

6. Pride;

5. Curiosity;

4. Excitement;

3. Awe & Wonder;

2. Contentment;

1. and creativity.

Games build resilience, McGonigal posits. Players aren’t afraid to spend 80% of their time failing. Symptoms of children diagnosed with ADHD disappear as they’re playing video games. Moreover, in clinical trials, 30 minutes of casual games outperform pharmaceuticals for anxiety and depression. Soldiers playing three to four hours of games, despite being surrounded in a theatre of war, have the lowest rates of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Perhaps it’s time we re-evaluated our single-minded view on games as mediums that help individuals avoid being productive members of societies, and instead see it as a method of evolving into more engaged and resilient human beings.

Canada 3.0 offered many insights into the way business, and life, will be in the next decade. From what it looks like, it’s going to be an extremely exciting ride.