The games industry must do more to champion the positive effects of videogame play if it hopes to grow over the next decade, according to futurist, author and game designer Jane McGonigal.
Speaking at the DICE Summit today in Las Vegas, she argued that studies show games are an enabler to real-world success, and the games business is in a unique position of holding the attention of an entire generation with which it can improve social and personal change.
"My goal is to actually reverse the common perception that we have that playing games is a waste of time. Even people who love games get this sense of gamer regret - they lose the better part of a weekend playing their favourite games and wonder should do something better during the weekend? People who don't play games are very convinced of this fact.
"This is really one of the biggest obstacles to industry growth. People are scared of spending more time than they are now of playing games. The biggest criticism of the games industry is that games are addicting and they take us away from what really matters in real life. That games are a real distraction and we get addicted to them and this will somehow force us to loose out on real life.
"It's a problem for the games industry too. We have this perception that games are escapist. That we play games to get something that we can't easily get in real life- to get a sense of power, or confidence, or success, or make a social connection - and we have a harder time getting that in the real world. I think this is a very dangerous idea," she offered.
"Games are absolutely not escapist. We are not escaping our real lives when we play them."
McGonigal rolled off a list of studies that showed positive benefits in social and real world situations. Children who play games with their parents have better relationships with them and have less behaviour problems and better performance in school, according to research.
Players of Super Mario Sunshine were three to four times more likely to spend time in the real world helping other people, friends and family. 67 per cent of music game players have been found to pick up and play a real instrument. People who create attractive avatars in games and social networking services are more confident and social in real-life. And games were found to be an ideal coping mechanism for traumatised soldiers looking to deal with psychological upset following combat.
"These are important studies because as you might have noticed academics like to ask 'do violent games make us violent?'," she said.
The motivational and inspirational effects of games should be championed more, said McGonigal, who would like to see more game playing amongst a generation of people in order to improve their social lives and achieve goals.
"We need to understand that playing game is not escapist. Playing games is a smart and powerful way to tap into our natural abilities to be more motivated, more optimistic and more resilient in the face of failure.
"We have to understand that who we are when we play a game is not different to who we are in real life and we can bring these positives into real world challenges and goals.
"Is the 3 billion hours that we spend playing games worth it?" she asked. "We should radically increase that over the next decade so we can discover ways to build up our natural skills and abilities to help us get what we want out of life."
"We have the hearts and minds of an entire generation. I don't think that we should take that lightly. We should take that fight seriously. There are few industries in the world with such a powerful position and such an opportunity to have a positive impact on peoples lives," she concluded.