Week 12 – Last post: Can gaming make a better world? (due before class on April 3)



What are McGonigal’s (2011) fourteen ways to fix reality? In which one do you believe most? What are your thoughts on some of the statements she makes, such as:

“The industry has consistently proven itself, and it will continue to be, our single best research laboratory for discovering new ways to reliably and efficiently engineer optimal human happiness” (p. 346).


“Games don’t distract us from our real lives. They fill our real lives: with positive emotions, positive activity, positive experiences and positive strengths. Games aren’t leading us to the downfall of human civilization. They’re leading us to its reinvention”. (p. 354)

Here is her speaking on this topic. Looking forward to your comments!



McGonigal, J. (2011). “Conclusion: Reality is better”. In Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. Penguin Books: NY. (pp. 346-354)


  1. Listening to Jane McGonigal speak about utilizing our investment of gaming hours to create a better world had me skeptical at first. I wondered how an increase to 21 billion hours of gameplay each week would create an evolutionary shift in the psyche of humankind, but the more I listened the more of a believer I became.
    McGonigal refers to games as a medium through which we become the best version of ourselves. The enforcement of collaboration to achieve an epic goal through communication, hard work, and effort builds strong virtual communities, wherein our social bonds grow with trust. It stands to reason that, through the evolution of collaborative task handling, games can help us to becomes better at handling reality.
    With the accruement of approximately 10,000 gaming hours in the average twenty-one-year-old it is inarguable that we have a whole culture of youth who are “virtuoso gamers,” creating a “parallel track of education” that accrues just as many hours as middle and high school education. By utilizing those parallel hours of gaming experience, we could potentially shape a future where gaming culture is used to solve real world problems.
    McGonigal breaks her gaming psychology into four points that contribute to the ideology of creating a paradigm in the gaming culture.
    • Urgent Optimism— “The desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief we have a reasonable hope of success.”
    • Social Fabric—We like people better after we’ve played a game with them because we develop trust and bonds within the structure of understanding, sportsmanship, and rules.
    • Blissful Productivity—We’re happier working hard than we are when we’re relaxing because work has the capacity to be rewarding or fulfilling.
    • Epic Meaning— “Awe inspiring missions … and planetary scale stories,” capture our attention and immerse us into something amazing we feel we can be a part of and discover ourselves within.
    Currently, gaming culture can be deemed as borderline escapism, because when we are within our virtual worlds we are generally happier. This is because of ‘epic wins’ and how being on the verge of solving tasks we otherwise deemed unsolvable creates a reality that is better than reality itself. This ideal that lays within epic win mentality creates “super-empowered hopeful individuals,” who are individually capable of changing the world, but only perceive their power and influence to be virtual.
    McGonigal has released a few games that inspire gamers to develop skills and understanding that have real-world applications. World Without Oil, SuperStruct, and Evoke challenge us to increase our gaming hours, utilize that parallel form of education and skill development, and invest our time into a gaming system that offers real-world rewards and better feedback.
    I absolutely believe that we as a culture are aspiring to become something greater, and with so many hours invested into gaming it makes sense to utilize that time to develop the world while enjoying ourselves. Reality and gaming have been separated by discourse, but with perseverance and ingenuity we have the power to create a new regime of truth regarding gaming culture and dynamics. The world can be a better place and we can help it; gaming may just be the social medium we’ve been looking for.


  2. Throughout the chapter in “Reality is Broken” and the TED talk with Jane McGonigal, she is presenting the idea that the world needs gamers to help save it. However after the reading and the talk there are parts that I see and agree with and there others that I can’t see how this helps the argument.
    The example she looks at in the book and in the talk is the Lydians in Herodotus’ writings. They used games to survive the 18 year famine before splitting the population to explore for new resources. With this example though especially during the talk she is showing how games can help us escape from reality using games, the Lydians didn’t solve their problems with the games they nearly used it as a tool to survive not thrive. She said during the talk “is how we are using games today”, and to me “saving the world” isn’t just surviving through times of despair.
    Following the talk on the Lydians Jane shows some games she has made that have more of the “save the world” focus. The games “World Without Oil”, “SuperStruct” and “Evoke” show how creating a gaming community can help solve difficult problems. Also that even a small group of gamer communities can come up with and start developing creative and effective ways to help improve and fix problems that may happen in our future.
    My biggest concern with the talk is that games are built and are in a separate reality of our own. Since games are in a controlled environment gamers are more inclined to be exuberant or social in games rather then in the real world because it is disconnected to the real world. The points she brings up especially “super-empowered hopeful individuals”, is built into the games to allow the players to exceed. In the real world however there is no design of the planet and there is no end game win cause unlike games.
    Overall I believe that gamers can make the world a better place with the fixes Jane brought up in the book, and the four points she brings up in the talk. Using the fixes and points day to day may help gamers be the best person they can be. “Saving the world” however seems a bit far fetched, or loosely connected to the games gamers play and the skills taught through them.


  3. In Reality is Better, McGonigal suggests that “reality is too easy. Reality is depressing. It’s unproductive, and hopeless” (348) I think her outlook on reality, although grim, holds true for a lot of people. Our society is structured so that people spend more time working than enjoying leisure activities. It’s easy to see how a life of all work and no play can quickly become depressing and unsatisfying. In response to this McGonigal suggests the following fourteen ways that playing games help fix reality:

    1. Tackle unnecessary obstacles
    2. Activate extreme positive emotions
    3. Do more satisfying work
    4. Find better hope of success
    5. Strengthen your social connectivity
    6. Immerse yourself in epic scale
    7. Participate wholeheartedly where, whenever we can
    8. Seek meaningful rewards for making a better effort
    9. Have more fun with strangers
    10. Invent and adopt new happiness hacks
    11. Contribute to a sustainable engagement economy
    12. Seek out more epic wins
    13. Spend ten thousand hours collaborating
    14. Develop massively multiplayer foresight

    The first “fix” that caught my attention was number two, activate extreme positive emotions. As McGonigal suggests reality is depressing, so games offer us “an invigorating rush of activity, combined with an optimistic sense of our own capability” (346). I agree that some games can create positive emotions for the player. However, I would argue that a positive response usually comes with winning the game, and if that does not happen it can possibly make negative emotions worse. This is why I felt that fix number four, find better hope of success, was the next important fix she suggested. McGonigal states that “games make failure fun and train us to focus our time and energy on truly attainable goals” (346) I can see how learning to focus on attainable goals would make life better. In our lives we often take on tasks that are not immediately conquerable and I find that the longer it takes to reach a goal the less motivated I become. Through games one can learn to focus on smaller tasks that can be accomplished in a set time frame. For example, I have been playing Skyrim for over 6 years, and I still have not completed the main quest line because I find it more satisfying to complete the smaller side quests. In addition, I would argue that games make failure more valuable rather than more fun, as failure forces you to open your mind and come up with new approaches to the same problem.

    The next fix that I feel strongly about is number five: strengthen your social connectivity. McGonigal suggests that games help us “build our social stamina and provoke us to act in ways that make us more likeable” (346). This is something I have experienced in almost all multiplayer games. However the one game that comes to mind is the board game Settlers of Catan, as my friends and I play this game every week. In the game if you make a move that sabotages or slows down another player, you are most definitely going to feel the negative effects of this for the rest of the game. I often find that my friends will shy away from acts that hurt other players in order to seem more likeable and avoid future destruction. Another example of this is the game League of Legends. I often choose to play as a support character and by helping other players get the kills instead of taking them for yourself you instantly become more likeable. Helping others tends to bring me more satisfaction than taking all the credit for myself, and this is something that transfers from games to my reality as well.

    In regards to McGonigal’s statement that games are the best strategy for “discovering new ways to engineer optimal human happiness,” I would argue that there are too many other factors contributing to our general unhappiness for games to conquer (346). However, I do agree that we have to “stop thinking of games as only escapist entertainment,” as they really do have the power to elevate and make our lives better (349). I can say in my own experience, having a weekly game night with friends and playing games like Catan, D & D, or video games like Smash Bros, and Fibbage, elevates my quality of life by bringing me together with friends. I find that when playing games all of our moods are elevated and we are focused on spending time with each other rather than all sitting in the same room playing on our phones. This “provides us real positive emotions, real positive experiences, and real social connections” (349).


  4. There’s an intriguing series of messages encased within Jane McGonigal’s “Reality Is Broken” work. She highlights key points that demonstrate a comprehensive look into the argument for games, and why our societies could benefit from more attention to brain development from positive games. The author has come up with 14 fixes that most certainly make sense with those familiar with gaming in relation to critically improving elements in society.
    A few fixes are: tackling obstacles, activating extreme positive emotions, doing more satisfying work; finding better hopes of success; and strengthening social connectivity (345-346).
    One fix that helps me the most would be fix #4 (hope of success), due to it’s relevance in my life. I am often nervous and vexed with finding a hop that I will ever break through with work, school, or social life. Game playing revitalises that hope by giving a sense of achievement through accomplishing tasks I could never dream of in actual life. It is a kind of motivator to do more good in my immediate material surroundings, by administering a rush from a completed task.

    With Jane’s assertion that the game industry is “our single best research laboratory,” I disagree, because I believe the industry still has a ways to go in terms of “research” dealing with how exactly to apply game skills to life skills. For instance, I cannot hope to become a better economist, or scientist via game playing, unless the game makes a conscious effort to educate. The industry focuses too much on entertainment, and not enough education while being entertained. There is a disconnect there, in my view. Of course, those genres are not popular, and most likely won’t be anytime soon, however it is something it consider seriously in future.


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