Jane McGonigal in her new book, Reality Is Broken, talks about two worlds. There is “RL” which is Real Life and then there is the Virtual Life, which exists in the gaming world. The average American youth will spend 10,000 hours gaming in the virtual world by the time they turn twenty-one. Why?
Jane claims that the increasingly sophisticated video game world is doing a better job of fulfilling genuine human needs than the real one. Ouch. She points out that today’s games not only look terrific but they address the core truths about what makes us happy.
Even if you think you hate electronic games, this is a book worth reading (also available from audible.com). With over 175 million Americans already gaming, game-haters will shortly be outnumbered. Games have come a long way since Pong was introduced back in the early 70’s. 97% of all youth play computer/video games and 25% of gamers are over the age of 50. Holding out is close to hoping 8-track tapes will stage a comeback.
Her book is designed as a primer. There are three parts. Part 1 is “Why Games Make Us Happy.” You will never look at games the same way again. I now know why I hated Monopoly (someone won and it ended) and I love Tetris (everyone can win and it never really ends). Part 2 is “Reinventing Reality.” Here is where you find out what ARGs are (SECRET: Alternative Reality Games). They aren’t just for kids and businesses are taking them seriously as a way to think through real life problems. Part 3 is “How Very Big Games Can Change the World.” OK … this is a reach into future, but there are very real examples of thought-changing games online today.
You can stand on the sidelines and scoff about this ala those who looked down their noses at the automobile or the Internet. Google this book or Jane McGonigal and you will find more than your fill of reactionaries who seem to hate the whole idea of gaming. For me, this is a sure sign that she is on the right track.
Are you ready to live in both two worlds?