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on 9 January 2012
Jane McGonigal's "Reality is Broken" discusses game design, improving lives, and changing the world. Sound grand? Yes, but McGonigal presents a strong argument. Far from being the downfall of a generation, the writer argues that video games are enabling collaboration on a scale previously unseen, and that through this form epic (to use the book's terminology) worldwide positive change will be enabled. Though at times lingering too long on games designed by the author (I think the book would have benefited from more variety), overall it was certainly a gripping (and I don't use that word very often) and insightful read that I would highly recommend.
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The concept that real life is somehow lacking and that gaming can not only fill this void but actually improve it is an arresting one. The author did not completely persuade me in the end, though some of her methods deployed among the forgotten and denigrated members of the new underclass might have traction, but I don't think she had yet broken into that audience. Instead she demonstrates that gamers can co-operate and work in deep strength, the sort of strength that might make governments think twice. The mass of men lead lives of quiet suffering has been a commonplace for millennia, a suffering ameliorated by religion or chemicals, could gaming provide the same pleasure jags without quite the same wear and tear? Too much of the book is consumed with calling things epic and awesome (the song from the Lego Movie kept sounding in my head) and thinking that only these elements can be created from games (as against those three major opiates: reading, listening to music, and the craic). For all she oversells the process there must be something here, we don't need games to generate co-operation, but gaming itself so often is a manifestation of other interests. Gaming provides a common language, and one increasingly "spoken" by many
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on 3 July 2013
I realise now that the men in my life are actually building their teamwork and social skills by playing Dungeons and Dragons Online. Who knew? until Jane McGonigal's entertaining, cogently argued defence of video-gaming.
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on 4 April 2011
Simply put; this book is amazing.

I'm not a computer gamer (I haven't seriously played a computer game for almost a decade), but this book is so much more than the tag line suggests... its a guide to motivation of yourself and those around you to achieve more... This book has inspired me to make changes to my every day personal life and my working life... I personally feel more motivated and I've seen a definite increase in motivation of those people on my team towards the work we need to do as a direct result of implemeting some of the ideas in this book.

Who should read this book? Managers, Leaders, and individuals.

Any gripes? Just one; it seemed to lose its way slightly about half way through -a couple of the games that were suggested didn't inspire me at all... I worried that it was going to go downhill from here, but no; next chapter got right back on track!

Brilliant.
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on 28 July 2015
As a teaching gamer, or gaming teacher, I am always on the look out for making lessons more... playable. What Jane does here is first offer an explanation of why gaming is good for you (a refreshing change from all the naysayers who are, quite clearly, wrong) before laying down a set of strategies for making like more game like. It's references are starting to date (for instance, no mention of Minecraft here) but the reasoning is sound. Next time you get accused of playing too much, produce this book and say "got to play - doctor's orders."
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on 27 November 2014
If you have children and are worried about gaming ( as most parents are) READ THIS BOOK ! It will totally change your attitude to gaming and what our children can learn from it. This book gave me the tools to connect with my son and his friends in a way that other parents couldn't... and as a result, the children themselves got a better insight into what they were doing and became empowered by it. We hear all the cliches about gaming but don't know anything about the positives and the potential. Highly recommended for parents.
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on 5 September 2012
I read this book in 3 days. It's a great book. The thoughts developed by Jane McGonigal are visionary. Most of us know "blue ocean strategy" ... this book is about "deep ocean strategy".
If you want to leverage the potential of people (= deep ocean) then games are a great source for inspiration. I'm not a gamer but learned that game developers and gamers are really developing new knowledge about how we can support the development of crucial or critical competencies ... yes ... competencies we will need to save our world: Eco-Systems Thinking - Global Co-Creation - Bringing Toghether and Focusing the energy and minds of people. The book is filled with great examples that help you understand how to build a appealing "game" context. But it's not about gaming ... it's about using the power of gaming to develop skills. Great, great, great ... a lot of different layers through the book ... the more experience you have in development, the deeper the book will touch you. Thanks ... Jane.
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on 26 July 2013
There are three reasons not to like this book, three objections created by my brain prior to proper reading.

"Reality isn't broken, reality is reality, deal with it, don't escape from it!"
WRONG!

This is NOT McGonigal's thesis (sorry for shouting). Reality is Broken is NOT about world-flight or whining. Instead of "reality" maybe read "the way we do some things at the moment"? Not as snappy, true, but it more accurately describes her point. Of course, there are multiple ways to define reality, if you want to get philosophical about it: the on-line world is just as 'real' as the off-line world, as is the corporate world or the intellectual world. That's why we have laws regulating all of them.

The RIB thesis is based on an observable phenomenon. People are leaving the off-line world for the online world in massive, increasing and demographically representative numbers. McGonical makes two contentions about these people. This 'mass exodus' is occurring because they are finding things on-line that are not as easily available in the off-line world, perhaps not there at all, things that are basic to human well-being. And instead of trying to convince them to return or chiding them for childish/irresponsible behaviour, we should learn from what games are going right and use this perspective to right wrongs in the off-line world.

"A four hundred page book about game design for non-experts? This is going to fry my brain!"
DISMISSED!

First off, this is not a book about game design, although it includes that. McGonigal starts off, not in the land of scripting languages and codebase, but by quoting a philosopher - Bernard Suits. In Part One, she defines what a game is (chapter 1), how they make us happy (chapter 2 - fun, flow and fiero), and then expands on four positive benefits (chapters 3-6). For example, chapter 5 outlines three pro-social emotions caused by games (happy embarrassment, vicarious pride, and ambient sociability). And chapter 6 lists three ways games create a sense of the meaningful and 'epic' (stories, environment and missions).

RIB employs this three-part chapter breakdown regularly, making many of the chapters like a three-point sermon. I found it a helpful way to divide and manage the material. Here are some examples from Part Two, 'Reinventing Reality', which also give you a sense of the book's wide-ranging contents and target applications:
* Chapter 7 - three types of ARG (alternate reality game)
* Chapter 8 - three ARGs used to solve real-world problems
* Chapter 9 - three community games
* Chapter 10 - thee 'Positive Psychology' games to bolster mental well-being

"This book is a naive, hyper-optimistic harangue, preaching the gospel of games to us poor troglodytes."
PARTIALLY GUILTY...

If I have to allow a criticism of this book, it's the evangelical tone the spills through at times. Parts of it feel like a cross between a revival meeting and sales pitch by a true believer (which she is). That's probably just the naturally reserved, mildly skeptical, British part of me, which smirks in the face of public displays of fervor, and pokes a finger in the eye of optimism.

However, I forgive McGonigal all her emotive transgressions for three reasons. One, she is damn smart. The scientific content of the book is serious, pervasive and bang up-to-date. Two, she is persuasive. Her arguments, ideas and applications are all compelling, more like a call-to-arms than a textbook. And three, she has experienced the power of games personally. After an accident damaged her brain, she felt suicidal. A game saved her, and game she created, and is now using to help others. You can't argue with that.

In particular, and among many others, I would like to submit three reasons why I love this book and why you might too.

Firstly, I've never read a book on games that is so influenced by and saturated with Positive Psychology (PP). I DON'T mean positive thinking, but the science of Positive Psychology as pioneered by Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi among others. Many books on games like to mention Csikszentmihalyi in particular with his concept of 'flow' or optimal experience. None integrates the larger body of PP thinkers and theories into their grammar the way that McGonigal does. Not only that, but her interplay with the wider body of high-level psychologists elevates her and her work way beyond the techy (e.g. Paul Ekman and Abraham Maslow). As a non-programmer myself, but someone with knowledge of psychology and game studies, it felt good not to feel excluded from game design.

Second, as the book progresses, McGonigal moves in stages out past the games console to the big, bad, but could-be-better world that non-gamers inhabit. I've already mentioned her exploration of ARGs in Part Two of RIB. In Part Three - 'How Very Big Games Can Change The World' - she takes it larger.
* Chapter 11 - three crowdsourcing games that solve off-line issues
* Chapter 12 - three social participation games that make us feel heroic
* Chapter 14 - how to save the world with godgames, forecasting games and SEHIs ('Super-Empowered Hopeful Individuals', the Übermensch fashioned within and emboldened by our digital age to perform wonders)

Perhaps this is where McGonigal shines the most.

Finally, RIB is written well, signposted well, with lots of juicy footnotes, yum, yum. Some other reviewers described the book as dry and verbose. Well, I suppose it is, compared to a Dilbert strip. There are other writers on game design out there whose writing is more trendy and terse, but whose content, in the mid-to-long-term, is shallow and (negatively) idiosyncratic. There is content to RIB, but there is humour, there is personality, there is passion, be of no doubt. McGonigal is a scholar as much as an evangelist. She's read every book on and around the subject, conducted original research, consulted for the biggest, and designed games from scratch. U can't touch this.

For a twenty-minute summary of this book's main thesis, and a chance to see its author in action, please check out "Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world" (TED2010).

If you'd like to see a more recent Jane talking about her accident and the game is spawned, look up "Jane McGonigal: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life" (TEDGlobal2012).
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on 2 July 2012
I don't usually buy this sort of instant-nonfiction; most of them are just hype for the latest fad, or kow-towing to the successful-business-of-the-day. This book, however, is mostly full of solid research and well-argued ideas, with quite a few sparkles of meaningful insight. I do think it could have been half as long (every chapter has to explain its core concept over and over), but overall it's probably one of the best books I've read this year.

I'd recommend it especially to people involved in interaction design, storytelling, management and, of course, game design, but it really has something for everyone.
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on 6 April 2013
Using the video game model as a method of improving day to day life is certainly a brilliant idea. I'm still a little bit sceptical about using them to change the world but this book opened my eyes and allowed me to see the potential for change in something simple.
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