Boing Boing Video: Jane McGonigal on Emotion, Gaming, and Dance.

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Today's episode of Boing Boing Video is the first in a series of featured interviews conducted during the recent Game Developer Conference in San Francisco. All last week, we ran a marathon streaming video webcast from a friend's loft near the conference site, and tons of interesting people stopped by. Today, we present a conversation and Katamari Damacy Cosplay Dance-off with Jane McGonigal of Institute for the Future.

Jane talks with us about her research into emotion and gaming, and her project "Top Secret Dance-Off," which explores how we respond to online interpersonal reactions -- and, what kind of "play" activities make us feel good about ourselves and each other.

For instance, she says that the experience of humiliation -- say, the embarassment you might feel dancing in front of a streaming video camera -- involves a brief blip of happiness. Jane explains why, in this 10-minute clip that melds neuroscience, sociology, and funky Katamari choreography.

Don't miss the very end. Jane and Xeni test out the theories in a not-so-top-secret Bollywood dance-off.

* Jane McGonigal's Game Developers' Conference talk on Making Your Own Reality
* BBV @ GDC live stream archives, at
* Boing Boing Video and Live at GDC09: archive
* Boing Boing Video and Live at GDC09: archive

[ Credits and props for BBV Live @GDC09: Production Team -- Jolon Bankey, Derek Bledsoe, Daniela Calderon, Eddie Codel, Xeni Jardin, Allison Kingsley, Matty Kirsch, Alice Taylor, Wesly Varghese. Special thanks to Wayneco Heavy Industries (accommodation and studio facilities), Virgin America Airlines (air travel), Celsius (thermogenic energy beverage), (streaming video host). Moral support, production assistance, additional talent, and good vibes provided by: Domini Anne, Scott Beale, T.Bias, Jeremy Bornstein, Brandon Boyer, Chris The Van Guy, Peter S. Conrad, Marque Cornblatt, Wayne, Bre, and the entire de Geere family, Marcy DeLuce, Cory Doctorow, Joel Johnson, Kourosh Karimkhany, Jim Louderback and the Revision 3 team, Karen Marcelo, Rocky Mullin, Alicia Pollak, Jackie Mogol, Taylor Peck, David Pescovitz, Micah Schaffer, and Teal. ]


  1. I love this woman and what she’s about. There’s a gentle, beautiful tone to her “Top-Secret Dance-Off” that reminds me of Miranda July’s tender film “You, Me, and Everyone We Know”.

    I don’t want to just buy her book; I want her to design my life. I’d also trust her with the keys to the Internet.

  2. This is incredible. I’m amazed at how much of an active following she has created with this dance off thing.

    What motivates so many people to participate in this dance off?

    Side note: Does anyone know why every single image I try to upload to my profile does not work?

  3. Jane got a life long fan out of me from when I stumbled into my first ARG, Last Call Poker. Poker also got a life long fan!

    And my pal Marque’s in the background! Me does a little dance. :D

  4. +1 awesomeness
    +1 content
    +1 royal rainbow awareness

    I love the concepts introduced here regarding emotion and status etc, and have been interested in and read about this type of thing (emotional exchanges/interactions and their resulting effect)for years. Happiness is truly the currency of human emotion, and I’m excited to see that awareness permute within the hive and gain interest.

  5. Would someone kindly spell the word that sounds like the first syllable of Xeni’s name that cognitive psyche. folks are using to describe the pleasure uptick people experience when they perform an act of unreciprocated kindness? Want to learn more about, please! :)

  6. Not wanting to be a negative-bunny, but did anyone else find Xeni’s apparent distraction during the interview…distracting?

    It came across to me as kind of rude toward Jane, like Xeni wasn’t actually really listening to what she was saying. Which felt…odd, for an interview.

    Did I miss something?

    Some interesting concepts described though.

    The limited to positive feedback approach did remind me of some Disney/Hannah Montana/HSM kids video site I’ve seen kids using before where you could only pick positive feedback: “You rock!”, “I like your outfit!”, etc…


    1. Hey Phil! Yes, I understand what you mean, and I agree it reads weird, now that I’m watching the footage. Here’s what was going on: while Jane and I were talking, I was soliciting and fielding questions by text from a (large) “room” of chat participants, juggling attention in a few directions, and trying to tee up the video we were about to see (of Jane’s work) with our producer who was a few feet away. Because of the relatively DIY and tossed-together nature of the production setup, we realized that the host would end up having attention directed in a few directions *during* the interview here, and that’s no good, at least visually for the viewer! We’ll do that differently next time, have someone on-set whose task is solely to manage questions from the chat, and/or coordinate any media that’s going to be dropped into the feed.

      I’m glad you like the content, though!

  7. This made my day yesterday.. Caught up on this and a few other BB video pieces on a virgin flight.. Inspiring mind opening stuff Xeni and crew, keep it coming..

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