Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Happy and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jane McGonigal wants to change the world by getting us all to play games more. She has already established a reputation for generating play around basic ideas and putting them to work with the support of many multi-national corporations and non-profit organizations. I think she has very admirable goals and she certainly has the enthusiasm to promote them, but will this book really solve the most pressing problems in the world?
"Reality is Broken" is a manifesto. McGonigal is convinced that by playing games mankind can attack the most troubling of social issues, from poverty to hunger, and solve them through play. She lists the ways that we can do this and often sounds like a self-help guru; "do more satisfying work", "participate wholeheartedly wherever, whenever we can", and "have more fun with strangers".
I like her ideas and she been actively putting them to work in her career as a game designer and social engineer. Designing games that can encourage and teach people is a noble idea and McGonigal has worked on many projects that seem to have accomplished this. But where are the results? Unfortunately, McGonigal has only saw fit to list Internet sites where she's implemented these games. Where is the statistical data that shows the real effects of these games? Where are the first person stories of how playing these games really changed people's lives? Only online apparently because they are not in this book.
Modern humans are already playing games more and yet global problems still persist. I think the failing of this manifesto is that the gaming community is not unified in the same humanitarian values McGonigal clearly espouses. Also, while McGonigal acknowledges criticism that games can be used to escape reality, her rebuttal focuses only on the positive aspects of games and sidesteps any negatives of gaming addiction. It would make sense to design games to minimize these potentials, but that is outside the scope of this book.
I do want to watch her career for the next decade and see if she manages to attach herself to any project that applies itself to real world problems and manages to solve some of these dilemmas. It would indeed be a coup for the modern commercial world for a game designer to win a Nobel prize as she asserts is a personal goal. Unfortunately, this book has not changed my gaming habits and fails to convince me that we are really entering a new era of gaming. I'd like to be proven wrong.
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