Jan 2, 2017
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
- 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
- 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
- Massively multiplayer foresight: Reality
is stuck in the present. Games help us imagine the future
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.