Jane McGonigal is a video game designer, but she engaged a University of Florida audience Monday in a massive, real-life thumb wrestling match to illustrate the power of games.

More than 250 audience members linked hands for the match, forming one long line that stretched through multiple levels of the Pugh Hall Ocora. McGonigal used the match as a metaphor for citizenship, saying that games similarly create emotions that bring people together in large groups to tackle problems.

"I think it's about standing up and grabbing as many hands as you can and wrestling together with a really hard challenge," she said.

McGonigal spoke at UF's Bob Graham Center for Public Service. She is the creator of alternate reality games that involve real-world problems and she's the author of the recently released book, "Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World."

She said games give players the feeling of being able to impact the world around them, provoking positive emotions. Playing a game for 30 minutes means those feelings stay with players for 24 hours, she said, sending them to their real lives with emotions such as a sense of curiosity or pride.

"It means that we can bring positive emotions that help us set higher goals, stay engaged, build strong relationships, to real work," she said. "It's why I often suggest to people, before a big meeting, play a game that you're good at. Before you take a test, play a game that you're good at." Read more