The opposite of play isn’t work, it’s depression, according to world-renowned game designer Jane McGonigal, who’s referencing the work of pioneering psychologist Brian Sutton-Smith. Sutton-Smith studied the psychology of play for five decades. More recently, neurological research has backed up many of Sutton-Smith’s hypotheses. The same two regions of the brain activated by playing video games are the regions that are chronically under-stimulated, and eventually shrink over time, in people suffering from clinical depression. McGonigal showed research exploring the difference in brain activation caused by interactive play versus passive exposure, and talked about the similarities (and differences) between negative addiction and goal-oriented focused behavior.
McGonigal also spoke about the success of Pokemon Go, which was not only the fastest-downloaded app in the eight-year history of apps, but also the fastest-growing product in human history. McGonigal showed clips of the frenzied pursuit of Pokemon in New York City and Taipei, Taiwan, to illustrate the collective and contagious enthusiasm for the relatively phenomenon of augmented reality games.