[Book Review] Reality is Broken

by Thomas MORADPOUR on February 4, 2011 · 8 comments

2011 Reading List #003

Reality Is Broken
by Jane McGonigal

For my full 2011 reading list, click here.

5/5
A very stimulating read, Reality Is Broken will challenge your perceptions of what gaming is all about, why it is so addictive, and why – contrary to popular belief – it is anything but a waste of time. Jane McGonigal will blow your mind with her vision that a game developer will earn a Nobel Peace Prize by 2035. A bold goal she is actively working on, with her 14 “fixes for reality”: unleashing the power of gaming to improve every aspects of our real world lives.
GG – now that would be an Epic Win!

WHY I PICKED IT UP

A gamer myself, I have always been fascinated by applications of gaming principles beyond games – including brand marketing and management. I was struck by Jane McGonigal’s ideas since watching her talk at TED last year. I had her upcoming book on my watch list for a while, and downloaded it to my Kindle on the first day it came out.

THE BIG IDEA

Gaming is fast becoming the biggest entertainment business on our planet, ahead of TV, movies or music. Every day, hundreds of millions of players spend their free time locked away from reality, roaming virtual worlds such as Halo, World of Warcraft or Farmville; waste of time? breakdown of society? In fact, no – quite the contrary.

Modern video games add layers of computer graphics, immersive multi-player environments and visual point systems; but that’s just the lipstick. At their core, all games share the same features : goals + rules and obstacles + feedback systems + voluntary participation. Well defined constructs that makes us want to work hard – at the best of our abilities – to beat them.

The reason some of the greatest games are so addictive, is because they fuel core emotional needs: giving our actions deeper meaning, taunting us with a fair shot at success, offering the pride of visible progress, and facilitating social connections. In comparison with the consistent kicks, flow and fiero games give us each time we play, everyday reality seems broken. It just has not been as well engineered to keep us motivated.

Playing is the most actively engaged activities you can think of, and McGonigal’s million dollars question is how we can put it to work to fix the real world.

How can we embrace play principles to hack reality, and design…:

A FEW COOL NUGGETS

  • “The real world doesn’t offer up as easily the carefully designed pleasures, the thrilling challenges and the powerful social bonding afforded by virtual environments. Reality doesn’t motivate us as effectively.”
  • “From zero to peak experience in thirty seconds flat – no wonder video games caught on. Never before in human history could this kind of optimal, emotional activation be accessed so cheaply, so reliably, so quickly.”
  • “Compared with games, reality is too easy. Games challenge us with voluntary obstacles and help us put our personal strengths to better use.”
  • “Compared with games, reality is trivial. Games make us part of something bigger and give epic meaning to our actions.”
  • “Social network games make it both easier and more pleasurable to maintain strong, active connections with people we care about (…) gamers are experimenting with new ways to create social capital.”
  • “More than 15 million people had fought on behalf of (Halo’s) United Nations Space Command. That’s roughly the total number of active personnel of all twenty five of the largest armed forces in the real world, combined.”; ”Just because kills don’t have value doesn’t mean they don’t have meaning.”
  • “World of Warcraft fans are so intent on mastering the challenges of their favorite game that, collectively, they’ve written a quarter of a million wiki articles on the WOWWiki – creating the single largest wiki after Wikipedia.”
  • “Games, in the twenty-first century, will be a primary platform for enabling the future.”

MY THOUGHTS

Can I make it a game?
That’s a question I’ll be asking much more often now, both at home and in the office. Opportunities to turn mundane tasks into highly engaging ones, stare me in the face everywhere I look. From creative briefings and team management, to getting the kids to brush their teeth and eat their vegetables.

And of course, I will feel less guilt spending so much time in my favorite MMORPG, World of Warcraft Twitter.
Yes, Twitter is (almost) a MMORPG. Want to know why? Wait for my next post!

NEXT STOP

Delivering Happiness, by Zappos.com founder and CEO Tony Hsieh.

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  • http://twitter.com/PhilipHotchkiss Philip Hotchkiss

    Thanks Tom for the review – hadn’t heard of this book but will buy it now.

    • Anonymous

      You won’t regret it!
      Tom

  • http://twitter.com/Ken_Rosen Ken Rosen

    Tom,
    Really enjoyed this. Unlike you, I’m not a gamer. Sure, I’ve spent an occasional all-nighter with a friend on Halo, but I’ve done the same on a pool table. And rarely repeat either.

    Yet from the work of the Institute for the Future (IFTF) to my long-time interest non-violent virtual reality to phone-based games to obsessions of nephews with console games (while I keep my son at arms-length), I’ve guessed my lack of interest in diving in would keep me from exposure to something useful. Your summary of McGonigal puts a nice point on my vague questioning.

    What else could one hope for reading a post?

    Cheers, Ken

    Ken Rosen
    Performance Works
    http://www.PerTalks.com

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Ken!
      The book is well worth a read evem or non-gamers.
      Consider this:
      - Goals – build influence… or gather interesting news
      - Voluntary obstacles – 140 characters
      - Feedback systems – number of followers, retweets, @mentions, klout
      - Voluntary participation.
      You are actually playing a game every day, it’s called Twitter ;)
      Tom

      Sent from my iPad

      Le 6 févr. 2011 à 12:00, Disqus a écrit :

  • http://twitter.com/Ken_Rosen Ken Rosen

    Tom,
    Really enjoyed this. Unlike you, I’m not a gamer. Sure, I’ve spent an occasional all-nighter with a friend on Halo, but I’ve done the same on a pool table. And rarely repeat either.

    Yet from the work of the Institute for the Future (IFTF) to my long-time interest non-violent virtual reality to phone-based games to obsessions of nephews with console games (while I keep my son at arms-length), I’ve guessed my lack of interest in diving in would keep me from exposure to something useful. Your summary of McGonigal puts a nice point on my vague questioning.

    What else could one hope for reading a post?

    Cheers, Ken

    Ken Rosen
    Performance Works
    http://www.PerTalks.com

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  • http://hustream.com Nick Kellet

    Thanks Tom. The whole subject is so inspiring, speaking as :

    a) a technologist
    b) a board game publisher

    Gamification is going to be such an exciting era with loads of prizes for everyone! Well at least for those who try hard:)

    I hope we take the opportunity and make a better world and not just squander it on crappy marketing gimmicks. I have high hopes. Jane is a true thought leader.

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