Reality is Broken

25 06 2011

“Reality is too easy, depressing, unproductive, hopeless.  It’s disconnected, trivial, pointless, unrewarding, lonely, and isolating.  It’s unsustainable, unambitious, disorganized and divided.  It’s stuck in the present.  But it’s our destiny.” (paraphrase from Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal, 348.)

In her book, Reality is Broken:  Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World,  McGonigal, who I will have the privilege of hearing speak at the Microsoft Innovative Education Forum (link) in July, outlines 14 reasons why games are “better” than reality.

  1. Games help to increase motivation, provoke interest and creativity, and help us work at the edge of our abilities.
  2. Gameplay is the direct opposite of depression:  it’s an invigorating rush of activity, combined with an optimistic sense of our own capability.
  3. Games can help us achieve a state of blissful productivity with clear, actionable goals and vivid results.
  4. Games make failure fun and non-threatening and train us to focus our time and energy on attainable goals.
  5. Games help build up our social stamina and provoke us to act in ways that make us more likeable.
  6. Games make our hardest efforts feel truly meaningful by putting them in a much bigger context.
  7. Games can help us enjoy our real lives more, instead of feeling like we want to escape from them.
  8. Using points, rewards, levels, and achievements can motivate us to press through difficult situations and inspire us to work harder to excel at things we already love.
  9. Games can be a springboard for community and can help build our own capacity for social participation.
  10. Large crowd games can help us adopt scientific advice for living a good life; for example, thinking about death in non-threatening ways or dancing more.
  11. Crowdsourcing games can engage thousands of players around the globe to tackle real-world problems.
  12. Social participation games can help save real lives and grant real wishes by creating real-world tasks that can help volunteers feel heroic and satisfied.
  13. Expert gamers, those who have spent around 10,000 hours gaming by the age of 21, are extraordinary at cooperating, coordinating, and creating something new together.  (Research shows that experts in most any arena—arts, music, athletics, etc.—spend on average around 10,000 hours actively engaged in their pursuit by the time they are 21.)
  14. Forecasting games can train us to think globally and outside the box in tackling real-world, large scale global problems.

In explaining her “fixes to reality” McGonigal mainly highlighted online games  such as Halo, World of Warcraft, the Sims, Civ, Foursquare, Free Rice, Spore, and Nike + to name just a few.  However, she also described how the ancient Lydians, over 3,000 years ago, played a dice game to help them through an 18-year famine as well as a game called Tombstone Hold ‘Em—a take on Texas Hold’ Em played in a graveyard with a group of people.  (I admit, I am intrigued by the latter and really want to try it out.)

While McGonigal really only highlights the advantages of gaming, I now I feel like I need to read a book on the disadvantages—just for balance’ sake.   I do agree with many of her overall assessments, though, and I especially found fascinating her accounts of how game designers use modern psychological and scientific research in the development of new games

If you are a gamer of any sort—online, MMORPGs, poker, board games, mobile games, etc.—this is a fascinating and thought-provoking read.

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12 09 2011
Post-IEF (How 2 Days in Seattle Changed the Way I Teach) « To Kick a Pigeon and Other Musings

[…] the World.  I also read her book before attending IEF.  You can read a synopsis of her book here: Reality is Broken.)  Like Dr. Medina, Dr. McGonigal got our creative, innovative, and technological juices […]

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