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Jane McGonigal

Director of Game Research & Development
Jane McGonigal

Jane McGonigal 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 the New York Times bestselling author of Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World (Penguin Press, 2011), and currently serves as Creative Director for Social Chocolate, where she is making games powered by the science of positive emotion and social connection.

Jane has created and deployed award-winning games 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, 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 currently serves as the Director of Games Research & Development at the Institute for the Future. 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 work has been featured in Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, O(prah) Magazine, Fast Company, The New York Times Science section, and more.

She is the founder of Gameful, “a secret headquarters for worldchanging game developers.”

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 advisory board for Games for Change, and for the annual Serious Games Summit at the Game Developers Conference.

A former New Yorker, she now lives in San Francisco with her husband Kiyash and Shetland Sheepdog Meche.

Achievements: Unlocked

  • 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 Award from 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