Reality Is Broken

Reality Is Broken

Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

Book - 2011
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Visionary game designer Jane McGonigal reveals how we can harness the power of games to solve real-world problems and boost global happiness.

More than 174 million Americans are gamers, and the average young person in the United States will spend ten thousand hours gaming by the age of twenty-one. According to world-renowned game designer Jane McGonigal, the reason for this mass exodus to virtual worlds is that videogames are increasingly fulfilling genuine human needs. In this groundbreaking exploration of the power and future of gaming, McGonigal reveals how we can use the lessons of game design to fix what is wrong with the real world.

Drawing on positive psychology, cognitive science, and sociology, Reality Is Broken uncovers how game designers have hit on core truths about what makes us happy and utilized these discoveriesto astonishing effect in virtual environments. Videogames consistently provide the exhilarating rewards, stimulating challenges, and epic victories that are so often lacking in the real world. But why, McGonigal asks, should we use the power of games for escapist entertainment alone? Her research suggests that gamers are expert problem solvers and collaborators because they regularly cooperate with other players to overcome daunting virtual challenges, and she helped pioneer a fast-growing genre of games that aims to turn gameplay to socially positive ends.

In Reality Is Broken , she reveals how these new alternate reality games are already improving the quality of our daily lives, fighting social problems such as depression and obesity, and addressing vital twenty-first-century challenges-and she forecasts the thrilling possibilities that lie ahead. She introduces us to games like World Without Oil, a simulation designed to brainstorm-and therefore avert- the challenges of a worldwide oil shortage, and Evoke, a game commissioned by the World Bank Institute that sends players on missions to address issues from poverty to climate change.

McGonigal persuasively argues that those who continue to dismiss games will be at a major disadvantage in the coming years. Gamers, on the other hand, will be able to leverage the collaborative and motivational power of games in their own lives, communities, and businesses. Written for gamers and nongamers alike, Reality Is Broken shows us that the future will belong to those who can understand, , and play games.

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Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, c2011.
ISBN: 9781594202858
Characteristics: 388 p. :,ill. ;,25 cm.


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May 19, 2018

The book touches on a lot of things, but the author's core argument can be summed up in one concise sentence. She writes: while real-life hobbies and jobs present people with disconnected tasks that don't seem to actually contribute to society or self-improvement, video games constantly challenge users to use their minds in a way that feels constructively meaningful. It seems to make perfect sense to this reader, personally, especially given that folks who work on physically creating things (from carpenters making tables for homes to musicians composing songs for CDs and more) express a lot of satisfaction.

The book's major flaw is that it has to cover a great deal in terms of economics, psychology, sociology, and more, with a bunch of things not getting the kind of detail that they probably deserve. As well, the side arguments seem like they could've been made in a more organized way. Still, the book is certainly worth reading, with its author making some interesting points.

Oct 03, 2013

McGonigal should try attending one of those gamer conventionsl?

Sep 18, 2013

I found this book slow going and repetitive, although it does make some good points.

Jul 11, 2012

I found this book stimulating and inspiring. We can expect to see more games and game-like systems in our future. I'm glad that the author wants to use games to make life better. I'm especially impressed with and games to promote dialog about world problems.

Reader oldhag's comments puzzle me because she sounds as if she has never heard of America's tradition of volunteerism. She may not like games, but maybe she would enjoy volunteering for something she believes in.

boyarsky Jun 12, 2012

It's not often that a non-fiction book is a page turner, but this one was. I enjoyed reading all the examples. Both of games and of how to gamify life. I was surprised at the useful games like

There are a lot of footnotes/references to read more online - which I did.

I liked the reference to Outlier's 10K hours of practice. Students graduating now have 10K hours of collaboration. I learned about NYC Quest to Learn - a charter school using game mechanics/language for learning.

When I read about flow/fiero, I immediately thought about being in the zone when coding.

A great book!

oldhag Nov 28, 2011

An unrealistic, and slightly sinister, vision of a future where video gamers are contributing free labor under the guise of playing a game. For example, McGonigal suggests that gamers should help find a cure for cancer by doing crowdsourcing on their playstation 3s in exchange for intrinsic rewards and/or for "micropayments" (maybe) since organizations can't afford to pay anyone to do the time-intensive work. Apparently, McGonigal is unaware that in a capitalist society one has a right to expect to be rewarded, and handsomely, for such an effort. Or maybe she is aware but thinks that exploitation is a great game to play as long as you're not the one being exploited.
MCGonigal suggests some distasteful, disrespectful, entertainment games, and no where does she make allowance for people who don't want to play games, people who, in fact, think that reality is both more fun and more serious than any computer game.

Sep 20, 2011

One of the clearest examples of what McGonigal is talking about is Chorewars, an online game that turns household chores into 'quests'.

Chorewars is an extremely rudimentary videogame, but it's a sign of things to come, and an example that knee-jerk sceptics are likely to appreciate.

Mar 25, 2011

After reading this, I want to play more! I look at things in my life in a new way and think "how can I make this more fun or make a game out of it?"

Mar 01, 2011

A book for gamers, and the parents of gamers, and the teachers of gamers, and the bosses and managers of gamers, and the family of gamers, which is everyone.

debwalker Jan 29, 2011

McGonigal asserts that video games make us more social, better at collaborating and happier. Really?


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Sep 18, 2013

Games have been a fundamental part of human civilization for thousands of years.

Sep 18, 2013

Learning to stay urgently optimistic in the face of failure is an important emotional strength that we can learn in games and apply in our real lives. When we’re energized by failure, we develop emotional stamina. And emotional stamina makes is possible for us to hang in longer, to do much harder work, and to tackle more complex challenges. We need this kind of optimism in order to thrive as human beings.

Sep 18, 2013

It may once have been true that computer games encouraged us to interact more with machines than with each other. But if you still think of gamers as loners, then you’re not playing games.

Sep 18, 2013

games are teaching us to see what really makes us happy – and how to become the best versions of ourselves.

Sep 18, 2013

Then ten/two rule means you work for ten minutes, and then let yourself do something fun and unproductive for two minutes – checking e-mail, getting a snack, browsing headlines. The theory is that it’s easy to commit your attention to work for just ten minutes at a time, and as a result you’ll get fifty good working minutes out of every hour. For many people, that’s a huge boost in productivity.

Sep 18, 2013

good games don’t just happen. Gamers work to make them happen. Any time you play a game with someone else, unless you’re just trying to spoil the experience, you are actively engaged in highly coordinated, _prosocial_ behavior. No one forces gamers to play by the rules, to concentrate deeply, to try their best, to stay in the game, or to act as if they care about the outcome. They do it voluntarily, for the mutual benefit of everyone playing, because it makes a better game.

Mar 01, 2011

My rant is about the fact that reality is fundamentally broken, and we have a responsibility as game designers to fix it, with better algorithms and better missions and better feedback and better stories and better community and everything else we know how to make. We have a responsibility as the smartest people in the world, the people who understand how to make systems that make people feel engaged, successful, happy, and completely alive, and we have the knowledge and the power to invent systems that make reality work better.

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