At this point in my reading of Jane McGonigal’s “Reality is Broken,” I do agree with some of the arguments she lays out. Her background as a major gamer and game developer heavily influences her view that games are the answer.

I’m not entirely convinced though. While I agree games are ONE answer, her argument is flawed in that games aren’t the ONLY answer. Yes, games are a way of simplifying goals, defining appropriate behavior and establishing easy to understand feedback systems. McGonigal assumes we are incapable of creating these on our own outside of games.

Her example of Chore Wars does illustrate that it helped her and her husband feel motivated to perform household tasks. However, not everyone hates household chores. Some folks clean to calm their nerves when they fell stressed or find the reward of a clean space, motivating enough.

I still argue that focusing on positive, more productive endeavors is an achievable goal, outside of games. Many people find fulfillment in creative careers, volunteer activities, social activities and personal hobbies, all independent of games.

The example of Quest to Learn sounds interesting and seems great for hard-to-reach children in the often lacking educational system. The question that continues to nag me, however, comes when these kids leave over-stimulating game school. What happens when they get stuck in a traditional classroom in college and are forced to listen to dry, monotonous lectures? What happens when their first job doesn’t give them constant progress updates and instant feedback?

As a gamer, McGonigal asserts turning everything into a game is the answer. I believe we must change our approach, instead of changing the actual context of reality. By looking at her breakdowns of what makes games successful, we can take some of those concepts and reframe our approach instead of changing the entire process. Before beginning a large project, you should clearly define your goals.

McGonigal fails to acknowledge any negative implications from increased gaming in the world. There is little mention how to combat addiction or over-stimulation. How do we distinguish negative gaming from positive gaming? Surely, not every game is created equal, but how do we cultivate a society that rejects unproductive games and who decides which is which? She sees the merit in all games, while I believe most people would agree there is little value in 10 billion covenant kills in the real world, amid all society’s problems.

One of the most powerful concepts I felt the author failed to address is competition. She briefly mentioned it as the chief motivating force between her and her husband’s Chore War conquests. Yes, we all like pride of excelling at a single-player game, but it’s the idea of winning that pushes us far beyond our comfort zone, sometimes at a cost. Could employing more games in everyday life cause this determination to create negative impacts?

Another challenge to McGonigal’s idea that games can change the world comes in her own assertion of voluntary participation. Just because we devise a game with potential to accomplish real-world tasks, doesn’t mean we can gain the participation we seek and require for such a cause. That’s where it seems design and structure would be key because without players, we’re no closer to the end goal.

 

 

 

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