Pretty much a quasi-self-help guidebook. I’m sure many readers will find the worldly advice McGonigal has to offers quite useful. Personally, there’s...morePretty much a quasi-self-help guidebook. I’m sure many readers will find the worldly advice McGonigal has to offers quite useful. Personally, there’s nothing in this book that wasn’t already obvious to me: you can make not-so-fun things fun if you turn them into games. Wow, really? Games are an alternative way to face challenges, conquer tasks in creative ways, develop problem-solving skills, blah blah blah. Okay thanks for the chestnut! I cannot believe you stretched that out into an entire 300ish-page book. The parts of this book that aren’t boring are annoying, sometimes even a bit disturbing.
You can tell she’s a follower of Bernard Suits of whom I’m personally not a fan. Suits places teleological emphasis on games, overlooking the process (what Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow”) of play for the end result of winning or losing.
I find it a little scary how optimistic this author is about the wholesale gamification of life: “And so while others might distinguish between ‘serious’ ARGs and ‘entertainment’ ARGs, I prefer to look at all ARGs as having the potential to improve our quality of life” (126). She does not critically address the limitations of alternate-reality games: who does it not work on (I’m sure some people simply do not like games), or what areas in life that really do not lend themselves over to gameification. It’s crap like this that is responsible for all the bullshit corporate “friendly-competition” events designed by HR to make workers more motivated to work efficiently. Nothing wrong with setting goals and achieving them, but I pity those who feel the need to construct teleological aspirations for productivity in order to find life engaging. There is more to life than being productive. I don’t equate happiness and wellbeing with achieving goals and consuming products. Not all tasks should be “conquered.” I guess my issue is this whole book feels extremely “how-to-win-friends-and-influence-people”-esque. “ARGs are designed to make it easier to generate the four intrinsic rewards we crave—more satisfying work, better hope of success, stronger social connectivity, and more meaning—whenever we can’t or don’t want to be in a virtual environment” (125)—this kind of stuff really makes me cringe, but maybe I’m too being sentimental, too sardonic, too harsh towards faux enthusiasm?
Some more really annoying parts:
* “Rai is “questing” before she even gets to school. She’s working on a secret mission, a math assignment that yesterday she discovered hidden in one of the books in the school library. She exchanges text messages with her friends Joe and Celia as soon as she gets up in order to make plans to meet at school early. Their goal: break the mathematical code before any of the other students discover it” (129)
* "So what is stealth social innovation? In the world of EVOKE, social innova- tors tackle social problems with superheroic secrecy and spectacle—public and yet mysterious, like Batman or Spider-Man—in order to capture global imagination so that the solutions have a real chance to catch on and spread virally. EVOKE superheroes are particularly known for applying an innovation method referred to by real development experts today as “African ingenuity.” (334-5)
* “In other words, they became what futurist Jamais Cascio calls “super- empowered hopeful individuals,” or SEHIs. A SEHI (pronounced SEH-hee) is someone who feels not just optimis- tic about the future, but also personally capable of changing the world for the better.” (315) oh and then she contrasts those with terrorists who are “super-empowered angry individuals (SEAI)
This book if full of crap like this that makes you want to bang your head against the wall and scream, ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?
To make matters worse, you would think that in these 300ish pages McGonigal would include some substantial statistical data or empirical to back up her claims, but nah! She’s just going to rely primarily on anecdotal evidence and her own projects. E.g. there does seem to be a motivation gap among students that needs to be addressed. But applying “alternate-reality games” to education is not some panacea to ameliorate all our education problems. In fact it may make matters worse. I recall in public school, I was typically the oddball student who would naturally be interested in the subjects presented in class, until teachers try to dress it up and make it look fun like it wasn’t already interesting, in which case I would instantly get annoyed or bored.
This book heavily stresses the cinema-studies approach to video games—sometimes to such an extent that I wonder how much experience Mr. Galloway has a...moreThis book heavily stresses the cinema-studies approach to video games—sometimes to such an extent that I wonder how much experience Mr. Galloway has actually had playing video games. For instance, in the first chapter, he suggests that the “subjective” first-person perspective in shooter games ultimately derives from conventions established in film. Sure okay, but he distinguishes them as such: “Where film uses the subjective shot to represent a problem with identification, games uses the subjective shot to creative identification.” (69). This might hold true, but he completely ignores the gameplay benefits of firs-person perspective particular to shooting games—tellingly, the most popular VG genre to utilize this perspective. While third-person shooters (which the author does not even mention in the chapter) offer players a “whole” (as in Lacanian mirror-stage “whole”) perspective of their avatars, the first-person view offers the players the most accurate control over aiming at targets, the primary element of shooting games. Some third-person shooter games like Jet Force Gemini (1999) have inventively dealt with the issue of the characters blocking the line of sight by turning them translucent when aiming. Zelda games utilize certain third-person shooting mechanics, allowing players to move Link around while firing a bow by holding down a button that locks the camera and character’s direction. Such game mechanics offer players (frankly underrated) control challenges much different from those of FPS games, and arguably serve as the primary determining factor when developers decide on game dynamics—not, as Galloway suggests, the way in which a player “identifies” with the controlled character.
This book offers a multitude of examples from cinema and video games. One could skim through many of them and still get the gist of author’s argument. I personally find a few of his arguments a bit opaque, such as the distinction he draws between P.O.V. and subjective shot, which I feel he could elaborate on just a little more instead of elucidating different examples. Nonetheless, I would still contend that this book offers quite a few interesting, if not compelling insights into video games in comparison to film. It fails where it overstresses certain points that make me think, “Yeah, okay. Maybe to a certain extent...but not exactly.” To give another example from the first chapter: Galloway distinguishes games from movies in that “Games have the luxury of being able to exist outside real, optical time” where movies don’t (65), then describing the “bullet time” effect in the Matrix as an example of “gamic cinema” that serves as an exception. I’m sorry Mr. Galloway! I think I see what you’re trying to get at here, but the way you word it, I’m just not buying your argument. All you had to say is that unlike movies (save the pause button on a recorder), games give players the control over time and space (relatively speaking). You make it sound as if directors do not manipulate time with ellipses and other effects. (less)