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

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

by Jane McGonigal


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143120612
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/27/2011
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 144,716
Product dimensions: 5.52(w) x 8.54(h) x 0.91(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

World-renowned game designer and futurist Jane McGonigal, PhD. takes play seriously. McGonigal is the Director of Game Research and Development at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California, where she earned Harvard Business Review honors for "Top 20 Breakthrough Ideas of 2008" for her work on the future of games. Her work has been featured in The Economist, Wired, and The New York Times hailed her as one of the 100 most creative people in business. She has been a featured speaker at TED, South by Southwest Interactive, the Game Developers Conference, ETech, and the Web 2.0 Summit, as well as appearing at The New Yorker Conference. Born in Philadelphia in 1977 and raised in New York, Jane now lives in San Francisco with her husband.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Reality Is Broken 1

Part 1 Why Games Make Us Happy

1 What Exactly Is a Game? 19

2 The Rise of the Happiness Engineers 35

3 More Satisfying Work 52

4 Fun Failure and Better Odds of Success 64

5 Stronger Social Connectivity 77

6 Becoming a Part of Something Bigger Than Ourselves 95

Part 2 Reinventing Reality

7 The Benefits of Alternate Realities 119

8 Leveling Up in Life 146

9 Fun with Strangers 168

10 Happiness Hacking 183

Part 3 How Very Big Games Can Change the World

11 The Engagement Economy 219

12 Missions Impossible 247

13 Collaboration Superpowers 266

14 Saving the Real World Together 296

Conclusion: Reality Is Better 345

Acknowledgments 355

Appendix 1 How to Play 359

Appendix 2 Practical Advice for Gamers 365

Notes 371

Index 387

What People are Saying About This

Martin Seligman

Jane McGonigal's uncanny vision and snappy writing give all of us a plausible glimpse of a positive human future, and how gaming—of all things—will take us there. (Martin Seligman, author of Flourish and Authentic Happiness)

Carl Honore

Forget everything you know, or think you know, about online gaming. Like a blast of fresh air, Reality is Broken blows away the tired stereotypes and reminds us that the human instinct to play can be harnessed for the greater good. With a stirring blend of energy, wisdom and idealism, Jane McGonigal shows us how to start saving the world one game at a time. (Carl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slowness and Under Pressure)

Tim Ferriss

The path to becoming happier, improving your business, and saving the world might be one and the same: understanding how the world's best games work. Think learning about Halo can't help your life or your company? Think again. (Tim Ferriss, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek)

Jimmy Wales

Jane McGonigal's groundbreaking research offers a surprising solution to how we can build stronger communities and collaborate at extreme scales: by playing bigger and better games. And no one knows more about how to design world-changing games than McGonigal. Reality Is Broken is essential reading for anyone who wants to play a hand in inventing a better future. (Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia)

Daniel H. Pink

Reality Is Broken will both stimulate your brain and stir your soul. Once you read this remarkable book, you'll never look at games—or yourself—quite the same way. (Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind)

Tony Hsieh

The world has no shortage of creative people with interesting ideas. What it lacks are people who can apply them in ways that really make a difference, and inspire others to do the same. Jane McGonigal is the rare person who delivers on both. Once you start thinking about games as 'happiness engines', and the ways that our lives, our schools, our businesses, and our communities can become more 'gameful'—more fulfilling, more engaging, and more productive—you'll see possibilities for changing the real world that you'd never imagined. (Tony Hsieh, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Delivering Happiness and C.E.O. of, Inc.)

Cory Doctorow

Jane McGonigal's work has helped define a new medium, one that blends reality and fantasy and puts the lie to the idea that there is such a thing as 'fiction'—we live every story we experience and we become every game we play. Her insights in Reality Is Broken have the elegant, compact, deadly simplicity of plutonium, and the same explosive force. (Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother and co-editor, Boing Boing)

Sonja Lyubomirsky

Reality Is Broken is the most eye-opening book I read this year. With awe-inspiring expertise, clarity of thought, and engrossing writing style, Jane McGonigal cleanly exploded every misconception I've ever had about games and gaming. If you thought that games are for kids, that games are squandered time, or that games are dangerously isolating, addictive, unproductive, and escapist, you are in for a giant surprise! (Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want)


Visionary game designer Jane McGonigal reveals how we can harness the power of games to solve real-world problems and boost global happiness.

by Cory Doctorow

More than 174 million Americans are gamers, and the average young person in the United States will spend ten thousand hours gaming by the age of twenty-one. According to world-renowned game designer Jane McGonigal, the reason for this mass exodus to virtual worlds is that videogames are increasingly fulfilling genuine human needs. In this groundbreaking exploration of the power and future of gaming, McGonigal reveals how we can use the lessons of game design to fix what is wrong with the real world.

Drawing on positive psychology, cognitive science, and sociology, Reality Is Broken uncovers how game designers have hit on core truths about what makes us happy and utilized these discoveriesto astonishing effect in virtual environments. Videogames consistently provide the exhilarating rewards, stimulating challenges, and epic victories that are so often lacking in the real world. But why, McGonigal asks, should we use the power of games for escapist entertainment alone? Her research suggests that gamers are expert problem solvers and collaborators because they regularly cooperate with other players to overcome daunting virtual challenges, and she helped pioneer a fast-growing genre of games that aims to turn gameplay to socially positive ends.

In Reality Is Broken, she reveals how these new alternate reality games are already improving the quality of our daily lives, fighting social problems such as depression and obesity, and addressing vital twenty-first-century challenges-and she forecasts the thrilling possibilities that lie ahead. She introduces us to games like World Without Oil, a simulation designed to brainstorm-and therefore avert- the challenges of a worldwide oil shortage, and Evoke, a game commissioned by the World Bank Institute that sends players on missions to address issues from poverty to climate change.

McGonigal persuasively argues that those who continue to dismiss games will be at a major disadvantage in the coming years. Gamers, on the other hand, will be able to leverage the collaborative and motivational power of games in their own lives, communities, and businesses. Written for gamers and nongamers alike, Reality Is Broken shows us that the future will belong to those who can understand, design, and play games.

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Reality Is Broken 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 50 reviews.
MikeUnderwood More than 1 year ago
Reality is Broken is a continuation of the thread of logic that McGonigal puts forward in her March 2010 TED talk and in support of her biggest dream: she wants to see a game designer win the Nobel Prize for Peace by 2032. The book is a concerted effort to take a reader through many of the corners of game design and to show off each area's lessons, and presents a paradigm which enables every person on earth to participate in saving the planet and the human race: Games. Gamers, she says, are humanity's secret weapon in our struggle to survive, thrive, and protect our planet. McGonigal talks a lot about positive psychology/happiness psychology, looking at the ways that we think we can achieve happiness vs. the ways that current science thinks we actually achieve happiness. Unsurprisingly (since she mentions it), games, especially social games that involve touch, are great for happiness. I found this section one of the most illuminating, since it covered an area not of my expertise (My formal psychology experience begins and ends with Psych 101, a class on brain chemistry). As a game designer, McGonigal seems to approach her world in terms of problems, and ways to make games to solve them. When she was recovering from a concussion in 2009 and unsatisfied with her rate of recovery, she designed a game called SuperBetter to help her take control of her own recovery and restore a sense of power. The game asks the recovering person to conceive of themselves as a superhero, their disease or injury as the supervillain, and to recruit allies to round out your team, identify power-ups which can help in recovery (taking a walk, doing things you love that aren't effected by the injury/disease, etc) and making a superhero to-do list of things that will let you feel good about yourself, set goals to aspire to (gather enough energy to go out and do X). SuperBetter let her 'gamify' the recovery process, taking control and empowering herself by applying an interpretive framework that cast herself as the heroine, possessed of the motive and means to get better. Not just any old game will save the world. But everyday games can still do things like let us feel powerful and accomplished. They can give us a way to stay in touch with friends or family, give an icebreaker for meeting new people, and countless other things. Games, McGonigal argues, are a central facet of humanity, and one of our greatest tools. Now we just need to take all of the time and energy we've put into games, evaluate and acknowledge what it's taught us, and put those skills to use on social issues, political issues, environmental issues, and more. If this sounds like your bag, pick up Reality is Broken.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book Ive read in many years. Cant wait to increase my gaming habits!
SuperDuperNY More than 1 year ago
wvlibrarydude on LibraryThing 7 months ago
A good decent read about games and how the use of games can help change reality. Her basic premise that through games, people across the world can defeat many of the world's problems was a little bit of a stretch for me. I did like that the book gave me the ability to think about my daily life and see how I was already using games in my daily life to make life more enjoyable (anyone remember Mary Poppins?).
splinfo on LibraryThing 7 months ago
The psychology, neurology, and science behind games and gaming and how games can be used to make the world a better place.
St.CroixSue on LibraryThing 7 months ago
The psychology, neurology, and science behind games and gaming and how games can be used to make the world a better place. Insightful good book.
GeertHa on LibraryThing 7 months ago
The first half of the book is a must read for everyone concerned with game design or development. It explains very well how games function and why we do like to play them. It also gives you an insight into why people play certain games that do not seem to fit with their live styles (like violent games) and why that isn't really a problem. The second half takes you on a journey through some existing augmented (alternate) reality games. Some of these descriptions show the possibilities of these kind of games and how games really could help transform humanity. On other occasions however you can't help but feel that this clearly has a limited impact and that the fact that the author is so entrenched in these game worlds, makes her stories tainted. It was a good read overall, recommended for people in the gaming business.
RefPenny on LibraryThing 8 months ago
McGonigal postulates that games are better than reality than many ways - they enrich us with intrinsic rewards. In comparison, everyday reality seems broken. It just has not been as well engineered to keep us motivated.Games actively engage us unsatisfying work that we have the chance to be successful at and they give us a way to spend time and build bonds with people we like. After looking at why people like to play games in the first part of the book, the next two sections look at the ways game principles can be put to work in the real world. She gives a wide range of examples in these chapters, from ideas on in-flight location-based games to allay the fear of flying to Tombstone Hold `Em which is based on the theories of Positive Psychology.
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