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

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  7,473 ratings  ·  953 reviews
More than 31 million people in the UK are gamers. The average young person in the UK will spend 10,000 hours gaming by the age of twenty-one. What's causing this mass exodus? According to world-renowned game designer Jane McGonigal the answer is simple: videogames are fulfilling genuine human needs. Drawing on positive psychology, cognitive science and sociology, Reality i ...more
Paperback, 354 pages
Published February 3rd 2011 by Jonathan Cape (first published May 2010)
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Alpharon Actualmente hay una versión en español. Fue publicada en 2014 por siglo XXI

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 ·  7,473 ratings  ·  953 reviews

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MJ Nicholls
I’m in two minds about this ambitious beast. On the one hand, the author is clearly bonkers and operating on an epic bandwidth of partial megalomania. On the other hand, her enthusiasm and spirit of uncrushable optimism is a reassuring and powerful thing.

So. What to do? I love the premise of this book—taking games beyond the world of isolationist escapism and applying them to our real lives to bring some of their imaginative wonder to the world. I love some of her ideas. I find her relentless de
May 21, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: misc-non-fiction
Jane McGonnigal has become a figurehead for what has become known as the "gamification" movement. This movement posits that elements of game design should be incorporated into real life. The premise is that jobs, education, exercise, social life, and essentially any other human activity can be improved by studying the human propensity to play games and tapping into that propensity to improve quality of life. For McGonigal's part, gamification focuses on video games, because of her past involveme ...more
Kressel Housman
As I said in my review of Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do , my oldest son is a computer game addict, but my second son has a different approach to gaming: he's a designer. He doesn't get as much time on the PSP as his older brother because his school forbids it even at recess, so he came up with a different way to entertain himself: a whole series of games on paper. He's drawn maps, mazes, codes for weapons, and score cards for any ...more
Barb Middleton
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, nonfiction
I"m not a gamer, but I am a player of games from sports to board games to game-format lessons for students. Games are fun. Games are motivating. Games in cultures are thousands of years old. This book is about computer and video games. Video games have a bad rap in the U.S. The media has bombarded the public over the years about the negative effects of game addiction and violence. Lately, my students have been talking about Minecraft. They make good connections with the picture books I read and ...more
Jul 31, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, ebook
I kept reading this book hoping McGonigal would turn out to have written something else. It's all about how and why structured games are so compelling and powerful that we can (and should) use them to solve real-world problems. Sounds great, right? What I wanted was for her to tell me how to incorporate aspects of gameplay into things we already do, to make them more compelling. No, instead she swallows her own thesis that, objectively measured, there is nothing more compelling or fulfilling tha ...more
William Thomas
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it
This author is an anarchist and doesn't even know it. She's a populist and doesn't even know it. And she's very close to being bat-shit crazy, but gets a pass because of her mention of Herodotus.

You know those people whose entire life is work? And they can't talk about anything besides work? They eat, sleep, breathe their work. And when you try to talk to them, all of their stories and metaphors revolve around their industry and their office stories with a Jonestown-type smile in their face? Th
Emma Sea
Western upper-middle-class privilege overflows from this book, dark brown and sludgy. Replacing social services for elders with untrained and unregulated volunteer labor in it for the virtual currency . . . how do I begin to describe why this is a bad idea?
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I find all the negative reviews that are listed for this book to be relatively amusing. It seems glaringly obvious from those who are providing these reviews that they are not part of the 176 million gamers currently residing in the western world.
I also find their conclusions and reasons for disliking this book bizarre and without any definitive specifics for why they disagree with the premise this book is based on. Resorting to calling the author names like "anarchist,"crazy," and "poor writer
Michael Burnam-Fink
Feb 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011, games
Reality is certainly broken. Leave aside the big problems like climate change, peak oil, political instability, and economic collapse, on a day to day basis, people are feeling alienated from their jobs, their communities, their very lives, and are fleeing into virtual worlds. Jane McGonigal makes the claim that this is not as bad as it appears, that in fact, games might save the world. Unfortunately, the book falls into the what I might call the Malcolm Gladwell (sorry, Malcolm) trap of thinkin ...more
May 26, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cbriii
It’s almost painfully clear that Jane McGonigal has never written anything for a wide audience before. It isn’t that her book is poorly written or that it doesn’t make its point well, but somewhere in her blissful vision of a future where gaming is the new paradigm, McGonigal forgot that if you’re trying to make a convincing point, you need to focus on that point. Reality is Broken is the worst kind of populist non-fiction because it is trying so hard to be universally relevant.

That being said,
Oct 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I went into this book with a high degree of cynicism. I think video games are fine in moderation but…video games can change the world? Really? In the book she describes a game put on by the Guardian UK newspaper called Investigate your MPs Expenses. The government released millions of un-cataloged receipts for various MP expenses saved as images. The reporters knew they just didn’t have the manpower to read every image so they put all the images online and created a massively multiplayer online ...more
Philip Cherny
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 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 300 ...more
A surprisingly good book - surprising not because I didn't expect it to be interesting and well written, but because of the breadth of ground the author covers.
McGonigal starts by making a convincing case that playing computer games (up to 20 hours a week or thereabouts) actually improves the mental capabilities and the individual and collective quality of life of gamers; she draws on a fair amount of psychological research data with which I was already familiar via my training and reading as a
Mar 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Unlike people who apparently pay attention to what’s going on in the gaming industry, I only recently became aware of Jane McGonigal, a Ph.D. in Performance Studies best known for designing alternate reality games and thinking really big thoughts. After reading her book, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How they Can Change the World, McGonigal strikes me as part cheerleader, part social scientist, part entrepreneur, and part that crazy lady in the downtown L.A. parking lot that wo ...more
Zach Freeman
May 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
I saw the author speak at SXSWedu this year and found her really engaging as a speaker but very light on actual substance. Her ideas definitely got my attention though. Her central point (both in the lecture I saw and in this book) seems to be: Is it possible to harness the power of games (and gamers) to help make the world a better place? It's a worthwhile topic and definitely something worth investigation. After reading her book, though, it seems like maybe she would be better off getting some ...more
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
I love Jane McGonigal's creativity in finding ways to reinvent gaming. She is clearly an intensely creative designer with an eye on the bigger picture of what games might be able to help the human race accomplish.

That said, I felt the potential was being overstated through a glossing over of details. Here's my favorite example (and this is a paraphrasing):

According to a book called Outliers, people who are absolutely brilliant at something have invested roughly 10,000 hours in developing the ski
Jun 17, 2014 rated it liked it
You could say I came to this book with a lot of baggage.

I'm a game designer myself, with one board game published in 2010 and another shipping to Kickstarter backers now. I've been designing board games for about 15 years, and with all the playtesting I've done in that time, I think I've learned a thing or two about good game design.

There are lots of ways to divide games, but for the purposes of this book, there are two kinds of games that are relevant. On one hand, we have "recreational" games.
Florin Pitea
Feb 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: until-2022
Beautiful. Informative. Awe-inspiring. Highly recommened.
Feb 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-read-2016
By their 21st birthday, a young person will have spent around 10,000 hours playing video games on a console, phone or other device. According to some, mostly parents, video games are a waste of time and effort, that could be better spent elsewhere. McGonigal has a very different view of this and with evidence from numerous disciplines, like cognitive science and psychology, she puts forward the case that video games are actually good for us.

Using various case studies and examples, she shows just
Dec 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
As I read this book I seemed to oscillate between "UGH WHY" and "DANG YES" so reviewing it is a special challenge. I started it a loooong time ago in a galaxy far, far away (seriously I think it was five years ago) and I think if I had finished it then my career trajectory would've changed dramatically. Or maybe I was depressed by the juxtaposition of the book and my actual experience in the game industry and that's why I put it down. I SUPPOSE I SHALL NEVER KNOW.

I feel like this book might be a
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Lots of food for thought! More notes to follow
Nov 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Being a developer of games and simulation/training software, myself, I think that this book delves into an important question: why do we play games? After all, when one thinks about it, most games are simply work, a series of repetitive tasks. What makes them *fun*? And why doesn’t work we do in real life engage us in the same way? Why do people enjoy doing chores in The Sims and Farmville, but hate doing their actual dishes and laundry? Why are X-Box first person shooter matches so popular with ...more
Sharon Dodge
Feb 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jane McGonigal is a fascinating person - the kind I'd like to have over for dinner - and I desperately wish this book were required for everyone I've known who mocks video games and gamers.

Her explanation covers so, so many levels of both the importance, the history, and the potential of games, and while I doubt she would approve of my brief breakdown, I came away with something like this:

Productive bliss comes from doing something we're good at, which we get regular feedback on and which harne
Feb 16, 2011 rated it liked it
In this book, games are defined as realms where people voluntarily overcome obstacles. McGonigal shows how all games meet these requirements for being a "game". In the beginning of the book, she describes some of the all-time most popular computer games; Farmville, Halo, World of Warcraft. By the age of 21, many young people have logged over 10,000 hours in these games--so they have learned how to cooperate for the greater good. McGonigal shows that the number of people playing World of Warcraft ...more
Apr 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is THE awesomesauce. What educator wouldn't want their students to be as ravenous and as persistent in their studies as video games? Now, to be clear, McGonigal does NOT say that games replace reality but can enhance reality. If we can apply the principles in video game design to education or social reform it can be a very powerful, potentially the MOST powerful tool, in the inventory of human thought. I see my son wake up every day and he plays at life with great zest. What happens to ...more
Rachel C.
This book is not just for gamers and nerds. LOTS of interesting ideas about the psychology of motivation and engagement; collaborative online environments; creative problem-solving.

Lots of cool factoids for my trivia brain, too. Did you know that people have collectively spent almost 6 million years playing World of Warcraft? That's as much time as we've spent evolving as a species. Dude.

Jane McGonigal talks about lots of areas of reality where we might try to import the virtues of gaming. The o
Dec 30, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction-nos
Thank goodness that's over.

I read this right through to the end mainly because there are interesting kernels of ideas buried under all the blithely utopian, buzzwordy guff, and not all of these kernels of ideas are things I'd thought about before, and thinking about how I might engage with those ideas in a less silly and more constructive way made it just worth it to keep reading. It was touch and go.

Too thoroughly sick of the thing to write anything more about it, but Cha's review says most of
Jan 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
She has some interesting ideas, but overall it seems like she's trying to justify the existence and popularity of video games to her grandmother while wearing a cheerleader outfit. You heard me. ...more
Apr 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
2014 update: I flipped through the paperback after a presentation and signing with McGonigal, and noticed an appendix that addresses nearly every criticism I had during my first reading. Awesome.

This book floated at the periphery of my awareness for a while, before a television interview finally motivated me to seek it out. McGonigal has an impressive resume: game design lead, TED presenter, admitted gamer, and inexhaustible optimist. It honestly wouldn’t take much to get me to read a book about
Neil Pasricha
Feb 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book changed my view of video games. I admit I was stuck thinking of gamers as slack-jawed teens sitting on stained couches in dark basements amongst piles of Ho Ho wrappers and Slurpee cups. Play more video games? No! Get outside! Run around! That’s what I’m preaching. Well, this book gave me a splash of cold water and nudged my parenting philosophy with my young children from “No video games!” to “Let me help you pick a good video game and play it with you!” Jane says some markers of heal ...more
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Jane McGonigal (born October 21, 1977) is an American game designer and author who advocates the use of mobile and digital technology to channel positive attitudes and collaboration in a real world context.

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If you've got an overflowing Want to Read shelf of books that you keep meaning to get to (one day!), you're in good company. Our company, that...
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“A game is an opportunity to focus our energy, with relentless optimism, at something we’re good at (or getting better at) and enjoy. In other words, gameplay is the direct emotional opposite of depression.” 66 likes
“When you strip away the genre differences and the technological complexities, all games share four defining traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation.” 21 likes
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