Date Published: 2010

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World:

TL;DR Summary

"Have you ever wondered if the world you're living in is real, or are we just living in a game?"

In "Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World", Jane McGonigal lays out a compelling and thought-provoking thesis that posits that the world could learn and benefit a great deal from the principles and characteristics of video games.

She begins by highlighting the undeniable popularity and mass appeal of video games, pointing out that millions of people across the globe invest countless hours playing these digital entertainments. The dedication and enthusiasm gamers exhibit, she contends, is rooted not just in the pursuit of escapism but also in the fulfillment of fundamental human needs that the 'real world' often fails to meet.

From fostering social connectivity to offering opportunities for achieving meaningful accomplishments, games, according to McGonigal, possess unique characteristics that make them more engaging, rewarding, and satisfying than many aspects of our reality. She coins the term 'positive stress' to describe the stimulating, beneficial experiences that games provide, differentiating it from the negative stressors prevalent in our everyday life.

Moreover, McGonigal argues that games can be leveraged to address larger social, economic, and environmental challenges, turning them into a potential force for good. By using the principles of game design - goal setting, rules, feedback systems, and voluntary participation - she explains how we can 'gamify' our reality, making it more engaging, productive, and positive.

Ultimately, "Reality Is Broken" is not just about games, but about reimagining our world. It's an audacious yet credible blueprint for a future where the boundary between virtual and actual blurs, leading to a world that's better designed, more meaningful, and more engaging to navigate - much like the games we love to play.

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World:


Social Science
Game Studies

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World:


The Power of Games: McGonigal argues that games fulfill fundamental human needs and thus possess great power. An example is World of Warcraft, which fosters cooperation, rewards effort, and provides a strong sense of achievement.

Positive Stress: A central theme is that games provide a form of ‘positive stress’, creating an engaging and rewarding experience. For instance, the challenges in games like Tetris are stressful yet enjoyable, unlike many real-world stressors.

Reality and Escapism: The book explores the idea of games as a form of escapism, not from reality, but into a reality that is better structured, rewarding, and satisfying.

Gamification of Reality: McGonigal suggests that principles of game design can be applied to real-world problems, making them more engaging and manageable. She gives an example of a game she designed, SuperBetter, which helps people cope with personal difficulties and achieve their goals.

Social Impact of Games: Games, McGonigal argues, can effect social change and address global issues, as demonstrated by the game EVOKE, designed to empower young people all over the world to come up with creative solutions to social challenges.

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