- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Press; 1 edition (January 20, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594202850
- ISBN-13: 978-1594202858
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 282 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #561,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World 1st Edition
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Reality is Broken explains the science behind why games are good for us--why they make us happier, more creative, more resilient, and better able to lead others in world-changing efforts.
But some games are better for us than others, and there is too much of a good thing.
Here are a few secrets that aren’t in the book to help you (or the gamer in your life) get the most positive impact from playing games.
This practical advice--5 key quidelines, plus 2 quick rules--is scientifically backed, and it can be summed up in a single sentence:
Play games you enjoy no more than 21 hours a week; face-to-face with friends and family as often as you can; and in co-operative or creator modes whenever possible.
1. Don’t play more than 21 hours a week.
Studies show that games benefit us mentally and emotionally when we play up to 3 hours a day, or 21 hours a week. (In extremely stressful circumstances--such as serving in the military during war-time--research shows that gamers can benefit from as many as 28 hours a week.) But for virtually everyone else, whenever you play more than 21 hours a week, the benefits of gaming start to decline sharply. By the time you’re spending 40 hours or more a week playing games, the psychological benefits of playing games have disappeared entirely--and are replaced with negative impacts on your physical health, relationships, and real-life goals. So always strive to keep your gaming in the sweet spot: 7–21 hours a week.
2. Playing with real-life friends and family is better than playing alone all the time, or with strangers.
Gaming strengthens your social bonds and builds trust, two key factors in any positive relationship. And the more positive relationships you have in real life, the happier, healthier and more successful you are.
You can get mental and emotional benefits from single-player games, or by playing with strangers online--but to really unlock the power of games, it’s important to play them with people you really know and like as often as possible.
A handy rule-of-thumb: try to make half of your gaming social. If you play 10 hours a week, try to play face-to-face with real-life friends or family for at least 5 of those hours.
(And if you’re not a gamer yourself--but you have a family member who plays games all the time, it would do you both good to play together--even if you think you don’t like games!)
3. Playing face-to-face with friends and family beats playing with them online.
If you’re in the same physical space, you’ll supercharge both the positive emotional impacts and the social bonding.
Many of the benefits of games are derived from the way they make us feel--and all positive emotions are heightened by face-to-face interaction.
Plus, research shows that social ties are strengthened much more when we play games in the same room than when we play games together online.
Multi-player games are great for this. But single-player works too! You can get all the same benefits by taking turns at a single-player game, helping and cheering each other on.
4. Cooperative gameplay, overall, has more benefits than competitive gameplay.
Studies show that cooperative gameplay lifts our mood longer, and strengthens our friendships more, than competing against each other.
Cooperative gameplay also makes us more likely to help someone in real life, and better collaborators at work--boosting our real-world likeability and chances for success.
Competition has its place, too, of course--we learn to trust others more when we compete against them. But if we spend all our time competing with others, we miss out on the special benefits of co-op play. So when you’re gaming with others, be sure to check to see if there are co-op missions or a co-op mode available. An hour of co-op a week goes a long way. (Find great co-op games for every platform, and a family-friendly list too, at Co-Optimus, the best online resource for co-op gaming.)
5. Creative games have special positive impacts.
Many games encourage or even require players to design and create as part of the gameplay process--for example: Spore, Little Big Planet, and Minecraft; the Halo level designer and the Guitar Hero song creator. These games have been shown to build up players’ sense of creative agency--and they make us more likely to create something outside of the game. If you want to really build up your own creative powers, creative games are a great place to start.
Of course, you can always take the next creative step--and start making your own games. If you’ve never made a game, it’s easier than you think--and there are some great books to help you get started.
2 Other Important Rules:
* You can get all of the benefits of a good game without realistic violence--you (or your kids) don’t have to play games with guns or gore.
If you feel strongly about violence, look to games in other genres--there’s no shortage of amazing sports, music, racing, puzzle, role-playing, casual, strategy and adventure games.
*Any game that makes you feel bad is no longer a good game for you to play.
This should be obvious, but sometimes we get so caught up in our games that we forget they’re supposed to be fun.
If you find yourself feeling really upset when you lose a game, or if you’re fighting with friends or strangers when you play--you’re too invested. Switch to a different game for a while, a game that has “lower stakes” for you personally.
Or, especially if you play with strangers online, you might find yourself surrounded by other players who say things that make you uncomfortable--or who just generally act like jerks. Their behavior will actually make it harder for you to get the positive benefits of games--so don’t waste your time playing with a community that gets you down.
Meanwhile, if you start to wonder if you’re spending too much time on a particular game – maybe you’re starting to feel just a tiny bit addicted--keep track of your gaming hours for one week. Make sure they add up to less than 21 hours! And you may want to limit yourself to even fewer for a little while if you’re feeling too much “gamer regret.”
People who spend hours playing video or online games are often maligned for “wasting their time” or “not living in the real world,” but McGonigal argues persuasively and passionately against this notion in her eminently effective examination of why games are important. She begins by disabusing the reader of some inherent prejudices and assumptions made about gamers, such as that they’re lazy and unambitious. Quite the opposite: McGonigal finds that gamers are working hard to achieve goals within the world of whatever game they are playing, whether it’s going on a quest to win attributes to enhance their in-game characters or performing tasks to get to a higher level in the game. Games inspire hard work, the setting of ambitious goals, learning from and even enjoying failure, and coming together with others for a common goal. McGonigal points out many real-world applications, including encouraging students to seek out secret assignments, setting up household chores as a challenge, even a 2009 game created by The Guardian to help uncover the excessive expenses of members of Parliament. With so many people playing games, this comprehensive, engaging study is an essential read. --Kristine Huntley
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I met the author at the BCX Disrupt Conference a few weeks ago, and was struck by the importance of her insights. This is the first book I have reviewed that is 6 years old, but I feel it is so important that people be introduced to its ideas, that I have broken with my 18-year tradition of only reviewing the best of the latest.
“What if we started to live our real lives like gamers, lead our real businesses and communities like game designers, and think about solving real-world problems like computer and video game theorists? Imagine a near future in which most of the real world works more like a game,” author Jane McGonigal asks.
When many people think of games, what comes to mind is wasting time on activities unworthy of their time and attention. Consider how negatively we talk of games: “Don’t play games with me.” “This isn’t a game!” Hardly the stuff most likely to shape the future, solve the most vexing problems facing humanity, and correct a ‘broken’ reality.
Gamers work hard at games: they invest time and effort, they overcome challenges and respond to failure by trying harder. They enthusiastically invest their best efforts in the game with no thought of extrinsic reward.
Game developers clearly know better than almost anyone else how to inspire extreme effort, and facilitate cooperation and collaboration. They seem to continuously find new ways to motivate players to stick with harder challenges, for longer, and in much bigger groups.
“These crucial twenty-first-century skills can help all of us find new ways to make a deep and lasting impact on the world around us,” McGonigal asserts. “Instead of providing gamers with better and more immersive alternatives to reality, I want all of us to be responsible for providing the world at large with a better and more immersive reality.”
I want to focus on just one aspect McGonigal deals with – the world of work.
What exactly is a game? All games have four defining traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation.
The goal is the outcome that players will work to achieve. In golf the goal is to get a small ball into a distant hole with fewer strokes than other players. Games have rules that place limitations on how players can achieve the goal, so that players have to be skilled, sometimes creative and strategic.
Games all have feedback systems, so players know how close they are to achieving the goal, and are tacitly promised that the goal is definitely achievable. This provides motivation to keep playing.
And games are voluntary, so participation is a sign that you knowingly and willingly accept the goal, the rules, and the feedback.
The philosopher, Bernard Suits explained playing a game as “the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.”
In the real world if you wanted to put a little ball in a small hole far away, you would pick it up with your hand and carry it to the hole, and drop it in. Compare the ease of doing that with playing a game of golf! When you play Scrabble, your goal is to spell out long and interesting words with lettered tiles. In the real world we have a name for an easy version of this kind of activity- it’s called typing.
“Compared with games, reality is too easy. Games challenge us with voluntary obstacles and help us put our personal strengths to better use,” explains the author.
In the definition of a game there is nothing about winning, because this is not a necessary condition. In so many games all but one player (or team) must lose; and in most of the online games, you are guaranteed to lose, because if you win once, the game simply gets harder. A good quality game keeps you at the edge between winning and losing - so you continue playing.
The feedback in online games is clear, instant and graphic.
All these factors, game designers and psychologists know, keep us working to the very limits of our ability, in what is called the ‘flow’ state.
Games make people happy which is why we engage. This is because good games are hard work that we choose for ourselves. Almost nothing makes us happier than good, hard work.
“All of the neurological and physiological systems that underlie happiness—our attention systems, our reward centre, our motivation systems, our emotion and memory centres—are fully activated by gameplay,” McGonigal points out. In this state of happiness, we think better, are more positive, make social connections, and build personal strengths.
The ability of digitally-constructed games to have exactly the right effect on people is easier than many other games, but not impossible, which is why so many non-digital games are so satisfying.
When we choose not to exert ourselves at work, it’s usually because it is not the right work, at the right time, for the right person. Consider what a boost to global net happiness and prosperity could be achieved, if we could positively activate the minds and bodies of hundreds of millions of people, by offering them better, hard work.
Quality video games involve many types of work. There is high-stakes work, like saving the world, which is challenging and calls on our cognitive faculties. But there is also completely predictable and monotonous, busywork, which players can choose because it helps them feel contented, and productive. There is discovery work that makes us feel confident, powerful, and motivated. And there is hard, creative work where we can make meaningful decisions that make us feel proud of what we have achieved.
Computer and video games today offer the possibility of teamwork across large groups of people, emphasizing collaboration, cooperation, and contributions not possible in the past.
Some games demand physical work, which raises our heartbeat, gets us breathing harder, and our glands to sweat.
It is not unimaginable that real work can have the same effect on people as work in the world of games.
Compared with games, reality is so unproductive. I often ask clients to evaluate how much of their staff’s capability, that they are paying for, is delivered. I call what they are not getting, the ‘Thank God it’s Friday’ tax. Most of those who do this exercise realise how much ‘tax’ they are paying.
In the world today there are literally, hundreds of millions of adults who voluntarily and enthusiastically play computer or video games 13 hours a week, and tens of millions who play 45 hours a week!
Try this simple thought experiment: What would happen in your workplace is you could apply just some of the insights from gaming? When we’re playing a well-designed game, failure doesn’t disappoint us, and people work hard and love even mundane tasks…
And McGonigal has many more profound insights that I didn’t have space to share. Read this book – it is paradigm-shifting.
Readability Light ---+- Serious
Insights High +---- Low
Practical High ---+- Low
*Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy, and is the author of the recently released ‘Executive Update.
The largest and most daring assertion that the author makes is in the third part of her book, entitled "How Very Big Games Can Change the World."
The book's title refers to the broken nature of our motivational understanding of relationships, occupations, and responsibilities in general.
Daniel Pink similarly discusses this broken phenomenon in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. In the essential psychology of human motivation, Pink notes that "it's best to try to unleash the positive side of the Sawyer Effect by attempting to turn work into play- to increase the task's variety....to make it more like a game."
The future of our families, our communities, and our world will soon be in the hands of generations that are ubiquitously gamers.
This fact has lead to two polar schools of thought on the subject:
1) That this trend will ultimately be the downfall of society. If people migrate from the real to the virtual, society will not be able to endure, and a degradation or collapse is imminent.
2) That this trend is the fervent hope of humanity. As people synthesize learning in the worlds of the real and the virtual, they will engage, coordinate, collaborate, and communicate in ways never before dreamed in the history of man.
The author provides very real, tangible, and quantifiable evidence that the second assertion is not only plausible, but that it is within our grasp today.
This is the information age, and knowledge is power.
McGonigal provides data that demonstrates how gamers are engaging, persisting, and accomplishing in ways that their non-gaming peers are not.
David Edery documents how (Changing the Game: How Video Games Are Transforming the Future of Business (paperback)) corporate America is rapidly beginning to engage this untapped potential. Modern industries are now dynamically attempting to employ real-world game dynamics into their HR programs and their employees' working environments.
Kaplan's GRE 2011 (Kaplan GRE 2011 Premier with CD-ROM (Kaplan Gre Exam Premier Live)) prep program offers their proven methodology in the guide's introductory section entitled "Play the Game."
This critically-acclaimed guide series continues by detailing that "high scorers choose to....think of the test as a game- not an instrument for punishment but an opportunity for reward. And like any game, if you play it enough times, you get really good at it."
McGonical's focus in this work is to provide a "fix" for the broken nature of reality by maximizing the benefits of the engaging aspects of games.
This method of engagement will enhance and improve individual and social lifestyles on a scope that is limited only by human ingenuity and imagination.
A good game is much more satisfying than Real Life in many ways- especially since it has a guarantee of progress: if one does the "right" thing, one makes progress in the game.
Unfortunately, this is not as true of actual life.
Now- to some extent, we can make aspects of Real Life into a game: this can be really helpful in certain areas, such as housekeeping. It might also be a help for clever managers who want to inspire/give incentives to their workers. Basically- when a piece of work is complicated, long-lasting, and with no guaranteed reward for doing it- we're not inclined to throw heart and soul into it. That's just natural. However- treating it more like a game- with clear rewards at specified and clear points, each goal of which is manageable... well, that's different!
At this point, I play "Glitch" almost every day. I like it because while the game sets some goals, I can set others, and every time I play I make at least some progress to one or more goals. This is so much more satisfying than Real Life! Nonetheless, it palls, so most days i spend about 30 min on it- which works out pretty well.
When everything else in my life is frustrating and difficult, though- it's lovely to go to a game and BE EFFECTIVE.