janemcgonigal

Bio

Jane McGonigal, PhD is a world-renowned designer of alternate reality games — or, games that are designed to improve real lives and solve real problems.

She believes game designers are on a humanitarian mission — and her #1 goal in life is to see a game developer win a Nobel Peace Prize.

She is a two-time New York Times bestselling author: Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World (Penguin Press, 2011) and SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully (Penguin Press, 2016).

Her TED talks on how games can make a better world and the game that can give you 10 extra years of life, are among the all-time most popular TED talks, and have more than 15 million views.

She is best known as the inventor and co-founder of SuperBetter, a game that has helped more than a million players tackle real-life health challenges such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and traumatic brain injury. SuperBetter’s effectiveness in treating depression and concussion recovery has been validated in clinical trial and randomized controlled studies, and is used by professional athletes, children’s hospitals, substance recovery clinics and campus health centers worldwide. Since 2018, the SuperBetter app has been evaluated independently in multiple peer-reviewed scientific articles as the most effective app currently in the app store for treating depression and anxiety, and chronic pain, and for having the best evidence-based design for health behavior change.

Before SuperBetter, Jane  created and deployed award-winning games, sports and secret missions in more than 30 countries on six continents, for partners such as the American Heart Association, the International Olympics Committee, the World Bank Institute, and the New York Public Library. She specializes in games that challenge players to tackle real-world problems, such as poverty, hunger and climate change, through planetary-scale collaboration. Her best-known work includes EVOKE, Superstruct, World Without Oil, Cruel 2 B Kind, Find the Future, and The Lost Ring. These games have been featured in The New York Times, Wired, and The Economist, and on MTV, CNN, and NPR.

Jane is also a future forecaster. She is the Director of Games Research & Development at the Institute for the Future, a non-profit research group in Palo Alto, California. Her research focuses on how games are transforming the way we lead our real lives, and how they can be used to increase our resilience and well-being. Her future forecasting work has been featured in The EconomistVanity Fair, The New Yorker, O(prah) Magazine, Fast Company, The New York Times Science section, and more. Her latest future forecasting project is the Ethical OS. It’s a set of gameful tools to anticipate the unintended consequences of new technologies, so we can avoid social harms and protect humanity’s long-term wellbeing. Featured in Wired and on NPR, the Ethical OS has been downloaded more than 25,000 times and is currently in use by mayors, universities, start-up incubators, and leading Silicon Valley companies in a global, collaborative effort to make a better future – and not get blindsided by the tech we create.

She currently teaches a course on “How to Think Like a Futurist” at Stanford University. She is also the lead instructor for the Institute for the Futures’ five-course series on Futures Thinking on the Coursera platform.

She has a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in performance studies, and has consulted and developed internal game workshops for more than a dozen Fortune 500 and Global 500 Companies, including Intel, Nike, Disney, McDonalds, Accenture, Microsoft, and Nintendo. Before joining IFTF, she taught game design and game theory at UC Berkeley and the San Francisco Art Institute.

She enjoys speaking to global audiences — (watch videos). She has appeared at TED and the New Yorker Conference, and keynoted SXSW interactive, the Game Developers Conference, the Idea Festival, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Web 2.0 Summit, UX Week, Webstock, and more. Invite her to speak to your organization or at your event. (She especially loves to travel to Asia, the UK and Scandinavia!)

She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Games for Change. She is the founder of Gameful, “a secret headquarters for worldchanging game developers.”

A former New Yorker, she now lives in on a mountain in the forest in the Bay Area with her husband Kiyash, two Shetland Sheepdogs, Meche and Tsonga, and twin daughters.

LOOKING FOR MY MOST RECENT PROJECTS AND RESEARCH? Check out the Secrets page!

ACHIEVEMENTS: UNLOCKED

  • World Economic Forum: “Young Global Leader”
  • Fast Company: “Top 100 Creative People in Business”
  • Oprah Winfrey for O Magazine: “20 Most Inspiring Women in the World”
  • MIT Technology Review: “Top 35 innovators changing the world through technology”
  • Business Week: “Top Ten Innovators to Watch”
  • Harvard Business Review: “Top 20 Breakthrough Ideas”
  • Game Developer Magazine: “The Most Important 50 Game Developers”
  • Gamasutra: “20 Most Important Women in Videogaming”
  • Games for Change: #1 Social Impact Game of the Year
  • BrandWeek: #1 Bright Idea of the Year
  • New York Times: “10 Breakthrough Ideas in Science”
  • World Technology Forum: “Entertainment Breakthrough of the Year”
  • Activism Awardfrom SXSW Interactive
  • Best Storytelling Award at Come Out and Play International Games Festival
  • Most Important Futures Work of the Year from the Association of Professional Futurists
  • Innovation Award from the International Game Developers Association
  • The Gaming Award from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences
  • Year in Review honors from The New York Times
  • Ranked #16 All-Time Most Engaging TED talk out of 835 all-time TED talks (as of 2010) .. and that’s one ahead of Bill Gates, who’s ranked at #17 🙂 


  1. […] and inclusion among Game Developer Magazine’s 50 most important game developers (see her website for a complete list of her “achievements […]

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