Monday, February 7, 2011

Reality is Broken–Jane McGonigal

McGbookcoverPoseysessions was kind enough to volunteer me for the Reality is Broken book tour. We both have a shared interest in gaming and before I even read the book she wanted to interview me about my experiences as a gamer. I would like to preface this interview and all my following statements by saying while I enjoy many computer and console games, I would not consider myself a hardcore gamer. For me it is more about the enjoyment than about the triumph.

Q: McGonigal starts her book by saying “Gamers have had enough of reality.” As a casual gamer would you find yourself agreeing with this statement?

A: Yes and no, gaming provides a temporary escape, but personally don’t feel like it is meant or able to supplant reality.

Q: What motivates you to play a game? What kind of games do you like?

A: Relaxation, challenge, and escapism are all motivating factors when I feel like gaming. I prefer RPGs and strategy games, and games with a high level of customization for the player.

Q: Have you ever thought that aspects of your life would be more enjoyable if they were more like a game you had played?

A: No not really, but I have thought that a game would be more fun if it was less like real life

Q: Do you feel socially connected through any of your gaming experiences?

A: Very little, with the exception of socially oriented games like MMORPGS, with any other game not at all.

Q: What would you change about your life to make more like a game you played?

A: I think games are enjoyable because they are separate from reality. A reality that was like a video game, or a video game that became reality would soon suffer from the same sense of banality that we prescribe to real life.

Reality Is Broken has a lot of things of interest within it’s pages. One thing I liked thinking about was the way that gaming connects with ideas of economy. I had never really given it much thought before but the things that draw us to gaming in a way become there own currency. So much so that in 2009 China was forced to regulate the use of virtual money for fear that it would begin to devalue yen. "The virtual currency, which is converted into real money at a certain exchange rate, will only be allowed to trade in virtual goods and services provided by its issuer, not real goods and services." The dynamic that has been created by gaming that makes it so that this type of regulation has to be is fascinating. People want virtual money more than they want physical items present in their life.

In the book McGonigal makes reference to economist Edward Castronova who sees a “mass exodus” of people out of their life and into gaming worlds. People are finding so much value in the virtual and digital world that the moments of reality of increasingly devalued. Reality Is Broken suggest that gaming provides and excitement that is lacking from real life, even within work and school settings productivity could be improved if there were a more game like atmosphere.

One of my favorite sections of the book was the chapter called “Leveling Up In Life.” In this chapter McGonigal presents different ways that we can take gaming concepts into the real world. One amazing idea came from Clay Johnson who created after hearing McGonigal speak. The tagline of the site is “gold stars for grownups.” The concept of the site is to use a gaming term “plus one” and use it as a way to compliment friends, family, and coworkers in a fun and unusual way. And in a way this gaming concept again becomes like a currency to those that use it. The currency of gaming can be very validating and that is why we need more of it in our every day life.

In Reality Is Broken the author goes on to say, “Systems that help us level up in real life, by providing us with voluntary obstacles related to our real-world activity and by giving us better feedback really can help us make a better effort.” A lot of people feel undervalued and invisible in their working life and that is why they turn to gaming for escape. Throughout the book McGonigal suggests ways that we can use gaming concepts to fix real world problem. This chapter is the home for Fix #8: Meaningful rewards when we need them most. And too me it makes quite a bit of sense.

I have even set up a account for PoseySessions and myself, so if you feel like giving us any gold stars just head on over there! (You may need our email addresses so just leave a comment if you want them.) Because after thinking about it I don’t think it would be so bad if there was a little more reward in every day life.

Oh, and one more thing. The Penguin Press has been generous enough to offer me one copy as a giveaway. Just leave a comment saying you would like to be entered. Contest closes 2/12/2011. Sorry US/Canada only. Please make sure you leave a way to contact you if you are the winner.


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