P. Aaron Potter's Reviews > Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal
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Sep 09, 12

bookshelves: geek
Read from June 10 to September 09, 2012

I have two problems with McGonigal's book, one structural and one functional.

Structurally, the book verges on redundancy, at the expense of some other themes that could have been covered. McGonigal's thesis, that the compelling nature of games make them the perfect tool for accomplishing large-scale tasks, from increasing the GDP to curing cancer, is dependent on proving first that games are (a) positively influential on the individual (b) enjoyable enough people will do the needed work and (c) able to be translated to these major tasks. I think she proves all three of these more than adequately, deftly interweaving personal anecdote and the (slim but present) academic research on the matter. However, she sometimes spends a chapter or three re-proving one of those three same points. Maybe this is a consequence of her personal love of games, which would make me forgive her if this didn't mean that:

Functionally, McGonigal elides some very real concerns with gamification. Does remapping our productivity to a game's state mean that we'll be further divorced from the actual point of our labors, or the real world at large? What about the well-documented negative effects of gaming compulsion? What about the research proving linkage between certain types of game and antisocial behavior?

That McGonigal simply skips these valid concerns is a disservice to her work, I think, and I hope she might address some of them in a future edition.
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