Fight or retreat? Enter a cavern or choose another way? Walk slowly or run ahead? It's what Fries has done playing video games for more than a decade.
"The average young person racks up 10,000 hours of gaming by the age of 21," says Ms. McGonigal. Ten thousand hours. It's a number made famous recently by Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers." In it, he offers the 10,000-hour-rule, based on research by a Swedish psychologist who argues that it might take that much time to become really good at something.
Pianists do it. Why not gamers? Forty-hour-a-week gamers might seem scary. Fries and Harvey are more typical. They met when Harvey managed one of the 6,500 stores in the GameStop chain, now the largest American retail outlet for video games. When Fries turned 16, Harvey hired him as his assistant.
Games don't totally dominate their lives. Fries keeps up with schoolwork. Harvey now manages a clothing store. They are articulate, funny, and take showers. But they've both put in their 10,000 hours – including entire days on weekends.
And Harvey illustrates something else. The average American gamer is about 37 and has played for 12 years. Harvey is 29. He's played for 13 years. This isn't something kids outgrow.
Why not? Yale professor Paul Bloom, author of "How Pleasure Works," points out that Americans find many products of the imagination – games, movies, TV – more interesting than real life.
"Why would individuals ... watch the television show 'Friends,' " he quotes one psychologist as saying, "rather than spending time with actual friends?"
Among other things, Dr. Bloom says, the adventures of fictional characters are usually "much more interesting" than ours.