Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal

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Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal

Category: Popular Science
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Reviewed by Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Summary: Though a little lengthy and rather one-sided at times I found Reality is Broken to be a goldmine of thought provoking ideas, presented in a well-structured form.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: April 2012
Publisher: Vintage
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0099540281

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There is no doubt about it. Video games are here to stay. They've become a significant part of our lives, and as new generations spend more and more time gaming it is becoming all the more important to understand why we play games and how they affect us. McGonigal argues that games, if designed and used correctly, have the potential to make us happier and can, at larger scales through mass collaboration, have the potential to really change the world. Throughout her narrative, McGonigal describes various fixes to a reality that she believes is restrictive and lacking compared to the worlds of games, in order to prevent a mass exodus into virtual worlds.

Instead of maintaining a strict boundary between real life and work, and games and play, McGonigal focuses on how what we learn through games can be applied in real life and how aspects of real life can be used to design games that are more meaningful and have the potential to genuinely improve the lives of their players. She describes a future where games and the mechanisms that make them so brilliant at motivating people, increasing productivity, and provoking awe-inspiring collaborations, can be seamlessly integrated into our daily lives, with people embracing alternate reality games.

The book is organised and well structured. From the idea of guaranteed productivity in games, to the concept of vicarious pride and naches, the exploration of why we play games and are inevitably drawn to them is fascinating and I particularly enjoyed part one of the book, where McGonigal aims to answer the question: Why Games Make Us Happy. I especially enjoyed the positive psychology utilised by the author to reinforce her arguments and often found myself thinking on a tangent based on a little fascinating snippet. Even if you don’t agree with McGonigal's visions for the future, much that she discusses about motivation, about community and loneliness, about achievement, goals and challenges, are definitely worthwhile to read about. You'll be intrigued by just how many of her statements about human happiness ring true. If you're a gamer like me, you will also have the pleasure of those tingling moments where you suddenly realise that you've felt or experienced the very gaming phenomena that McGonigal is describing, and she is actually putting into words your own experiences of games.

McGonigal very rarely dwells on negatives, and although this contributes to the overwhelming optimism of the book, it does lead to a rather one-sided presentation of games, and sometimes I don't feel like she gives reality quite enough credit. Determining what is best for whole societies, let alone single individuals, is an incredibly difficult task, one that has to take into account an impossibly large number of factors, and at times McGonigal lets her enthusiasm for her reality fixes overflow a little, and some of her ideas feel far-fetched and overstated. Although the author makes a genuine effort to keep the book engaging, with plenty of interesting anecdotes and examples enhanced by an easy confident tone, it does feel at times as if she is talking at the reader rather than to the reader. Although there was a temptation to skim through passages, especially in the second half of the book, it was countered by the high density of ideas and different forms of games that McGonigal works through, with no one topic being dwelt on for too long such that it becomes boring.

If you play a lot of games you will be more able to relate to McGonigal's words, and will enjoy the depth that they add to your gaming experiences. If you’re not a gamer, but are intrigued as to how video games could possibly be beneficial, why not see if you are persuaded?

Thank you to the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you find yourself intrigued by the idea of video games as a tool for good, there's plenty of further reading material out there that takes the argument further. Those who enjoyed the musings on happiness in Reality is Broken might like to try reading The Happy Life: The Search for Contentment in the Modern World by David Malouf.

Buy Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal at Amazon.com.


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