“Reality is broken. Game designers can fix it…We need to design ways for epic wins.”
Like many current ideas keeping up with dynamic opportunities and dramatic changes in technology and our tapestry of interconnections, McGonigal’s ideas connect to creativity in education, empowering students to excel, and the power of fun and play as models for substantive change, deep learning, and innovative ideas.
The key insights of Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World are as much technological as psychological. “No object, no event, no outcomes or life circumstances can deliver real happiness to us. We have to make our own happiness–by working hard at activities that provide their own reward.” Electronic games, seen in this light, are not just a medium or even an art form. They are potent engines for creating and enhancing emotional experience: for making our lives better, especially if we can connect the dots to playing games that engage in real world problems.
Games are essential to the survival of the human race.”
Okay, McGonigal may be taking on a bit much from a quantitative standpoint as she delves us into questions about philosophy, psychology, and ethics, but her writing (and speaking below) is infectious, and well-informed. How can how games really transform our approach to address major crises of our century?
The real world just 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. Reality isn’t engineered to maximize our potential. Reality wasn’t designed from the bottom up to make us happy.”
We crave satisfying work that allows us to be optimistic about our own chances for success, social connection, and a sense of curiosity, awe, and wonder. How you define that is your business, but she’s putting it on the table.
McGonigal also does an vivacious job reconciling our antagonistic relationship with games from a game designer’s perspective. I’ve heard people say that she needs to back up her research with more empirical data. Seriously? She does as compelling and systematic job as many other powerful books on all manner of related topics, and I don’t come across such critiques. In fact, I would say that McGonigal is coming on so strongly with her infectious optimism that we can’t fail but to be a part of the future she’s imaging because to get off the bus now would be foolish.
Does she point in directions we need to study further? Well, yeah. And let’s get on that. It’s time to “level up” and start using the human resource of gamers for transforming the world.
I want gaming to be something everybody does, because they understand that games can be a real solution to problems and a real source of happiness. I want games to be something everybody learns how to design and develop, because they understand that games are a real platform for change and getting things done. And I want families, schools, companies, industries, cities, countries, and the whole world to come together to play them, because we’re finally making games that tackle real dilemmas and improve real lives.”