Jane McGonigal is a game designer who believes that, in many ways, games bring out the best in people. The reason for their popularity, she claims, is that they satisfy fundamental human needs. This leads, for example, to the highly insightful and completely counterintuitive notion that a big reason for people playing games is that it makes them feel productive.
She peppers her book with reality "fixes" - comparisons of games with reality, where games come out on top, and lead the way to a better future. Here is a full list of those fixes.
- Unnecessary obstacles: Compared with games, reality is too easy. Games challenge us with voluntary obstacles and help us put our personal strengths to better use.
- Emotional activation: Compared with games, reality is depressing. Games focus our energy, with relentless optimism, on something we're good at and enjoy.
- More satisfying work: Compared with games, reality is unproductive. Games give us clearer missions and more satisfying, hands-on work.
- Better hope of success: Compared with games, reality is hopeless. Games eliminate our fear of failure and improve our chances of success.
- Stronger social connectivity: Compared with games, reality is disconnected. Games build stronger social bonds and lead to more active social networks. The more time we spend interacting within our social networks, the more likely we are to generate a subset of positive emotions known as "prosocial emotions."
- Epic scale: Compared with games, reality is trivial. Games make us a part of something bigger and give epic meaning in our actions.
- Wholehearted participation: Compared with games, reality is hard to get into. Games motivate us to participate more fully in whatever we're doing.
- Meaningful rewards when we need them most: Compared with games, reality is pointless and unrewarding. Games help us feel more rewarded for making our best effort.
- More fun with strangers: Compared with games, reality is lonely and isolating. Games help us band together and create powerful communities from scratch.
- Happiness hacks: Compared with games, reality is hard to swallow. Games make it easier to take good advice and try out happier habits.
- A sustainable engagement economy: Compared with games, reality is unsustainable. The gratifications we get from playing games are an infinitely renewable resource.
- More epic wins: Compared with games, reality is unambitious. Games help us define awe-inspiring goals and tackle seemingly impossible social missions together.
- Ten thousand hours collaborating: Compared with games, reality is disorganised and divided. Games help us make a more concerted effort - and over time, they give us collaboration superpowers.
- Massively multiplayer foresight: Reality is stuck in the present. Games help us imagine the future together.
The book has many case studies and psychological experiments backing up the points that it makes. Overall it reads like a sort of manifesto, but for me, the most important thing was the way in which it explained things about people that I never realised before. It gave me a new perspective on human motivation, on learning, and on myself. I hope you will gain from it as I did.
Enjoy the episode.