Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

McGonigal Launches Social Chocolate to Make Life "Gameful"

I’m here at the Gamification Summit in San Francisco to interview game designer Jane McGonigal. In addition to her new book, “Reality is Broken,” McGonigal is today launching a new company called Social Chocolate to create games that make reality engaging.

Social Chocolate is seed-funded and led by McGonigal (as creative director) as well as former Zynga designer Chelsea Howe, Black Rocket ad agency founder John Yost, brand strategist Adam DeVito and Hot Studio CEO Maria Giudice.

McGonigal’s thesis is that we can harness game play to solve real-world problems. And likewise, Social Chocolate’s mission is “making worldchanging games powered by the science of positive emotion and social connection.”

Says the company’s Web site: “We are in the middle of developing radically new social adventure games based on breakthrough scientific findings from psychology, neuroscience, and sociology.”

Some of the games McGonigal has been working on, as detailed in her book, include Top Secret Dance-Off, which challenges players to videotape themselves completing dance missions modeled on massively multiplayer online role-playing games, and SuperBetter, which she designed to help motivate herself to recover from a serious concussion. She is also creating a game in partnership with the New York Public Library to attract young people with an overnight book-writing session.

I’m about to go onstage to interview McGonigal and will add more details after our discussion.

Update: McGonigal said SuperBetter is to be the San Francisco-based Social Chocolate’s first game, with clinical trials starting in a few months.

The game solicits the participation of close family members and friends to help people who are injured or suffering from a chronic condition. The idea is to return to health by accomplishing goals and connecting with people. In McGonigal’s case of a brain injury, her recovery was being hindered by anxiety and depression about not recovering, and turning her recovery into a game gave her a positive outlook.

If I can get McGonigal away from her swarms of adoring fans at the conference, I’ll shoot a video about her plans.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald