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#ISC2Congress: Will Gamers Build a Secure Future?

Director of game research and development for the Institute for the Future, Jane McGonigal, opened her luncheon keynote at the 2018 Security Congress with what she considered exciting news by announcing that human beings have reached a milestone: People spend 2.5 billion minutes a day playing League of Legends. 

“To put that in perspective, that’s the equivalent of having a company of 20,250,833 employees who do nothing but play League of Legends all day,” McGonigal said. Lest the audience grow too alarmed, McGonigal quickly launched into evidence supporting the theory that playing games actually has a positive impact on productivity.

Recognizing that many might see gaming as a waste of time, McGonigal argued that this idea is a misconception. “I think the reason why we fear it is a waste of time has to do with a misconception that most of us hold from when we are very young, and we hold it for our entire lives.”

The opposite of work is not play, but depression, McGonigal argued. Play, in fact, induces optimism and fosters hope for success. The curiosity that comes from gaming can then be applied to cybersecurity through task switching. McGonigal suggested that a gaming "warm-up’"can actually create a "super-powered hopeful individual" – playing a game for 10 minutes serves as a preparation tool to shift into problem-solving in the real world. 

Before tasking the audience with a challenge, McGonigal explained, “I make things that allow users to figure out how to tackle some of the toughest challenges of our time. What are the problems we face as a planet and how can we lift people from feeling anxious, hopeless or helpless into feeling they are empowered?”

Answering that question, McGonigal said that bringing gamers and the cybersecurity community together is key to thinking like a futurist. “They can work together to do a much better job of anticipating the long-term social impact of the technologies we create and integrate into our organizations and bring into our families and lives."

Some in the audience scoffed at her suggestion that we are all Mark Zuckerberg now, but McGonigal went on to explain, “We are all responsible for the role we play in adopting technologies and popularizing technologies and bringing impact into our organizations. Those who design technology, build technology and sell technology have their role in this as well.

“It’s up to all of us to think with a little bit more foresight. Are we building the future that we want? What might go wrong, and what actions can we take today to avoid these things going wrong?” The skills learned through gaming are preparing a generation of people to anticipate the impact technology may have on the future in order to better secure it, according to McGonigal.

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