No One Wins a Car In Oprah's New Game

Game designer and champion Jane McGonigal advocates games as a tool for making the world a better place. She has a book and a pile of research explaining all of the ways in which games can be beneficial for players' physical and mental health as well as for the wider world.

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So now, it seems almost inevitable that she has created a game for no less powerful a person than Oprah Winfrey, media titan. The project, found on Facebook, is called "The Thank You Game" and aims, aptly enough, to make players express gratitude more often in their daily lives.

The game captures exactly what makes both Winfrey and McGonigal so well known: the idea that through focusing one's mind on gratitude and a life well lived, one can find peace, coupled with the idea that "gratitude is contagious," and that through the play structure, players can improve both themselves and the world around them.

The game's stated goal is "to spread gratitude to half a billion people worldwide." The message is thoughtful, and it's true that positive (or negative) actions and moods can have a cascading ripple effect. But it seems rather spectacularly misplaced to suggest that the best reward for expressing true gratitude is to make sure you run to Facebook and push the big pink button (which asks you if you really mean it!) as soon as you've thanked someone. If any thought in the world could be imagined to deliver its own intrinsic rewards, surely thankfulness is at the top of the list?

In truth I'm surprised the game isn't a mobile app, making it easier to track your gratitude on the go. On the other hand, I guess my oft-shouted, "Thanks for cutting me off, jerkwad!" might defeat the purpose.

Oprah's Thank You Game [Facebook]

DISCUSSION

I'm a big fan of Jane McGonigal and her work with gamification as a tool for improvement. It got me into Fitocracy, and it's really helped me better myself as a person. I don't think this sounds necessarily misplaced; I absolutely hate exercise, but I just got back from a 3.5 mile run, on the Couch to 5K program. Such is the power of needing to see the bars go up. There are better rewards, of course, but it's hardly practical to have someone follow you around to give you a high-five and a creampuff every time you say "thank you" (and really mean it).