“Reality in Question”: the main theses of the book by Jane McGonigal on the role of games in modern society


    “Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change Our World” book ( known as game designer and gamification specialist Jane McGonigal dedicated to her book how and why with the help of games, humanity can successfully change the world around it.

    The book was published at the beginning of 2011 and became widely known, but was translated into Russianjust this year. In fact, this is a manifesto of games and gamification as the main tool for organizing everyday life, and for solving global problems of the modern world. Despite the time elapsed since the first publication and the irrelevance of some examples, the work of McGonigal has not lost its value.
    Under the cut - the main theses of the book.

    Once upon a time in Lydia ...

    If you think about it, then reality is an uninteresting, boring, primitive thing that drives people into and out of depression. In reality, there is no place for large-scale goals and ambitions. But at the same time, reality is the only “hard currency” that we have, the only fate available to us, which we need to improve and improve, as billions of our ancestors did.

    This is where the games come to the rescue. McGonigal refers to an episode of Herodotus's History. When the Lydian tribe comprehended perennial crop failure and famine, they made it a means to fight the adversity of the game, which allowed them to think less about food. According to legend (and it is allegedly confirmed by later historiographers), the famine lasted 18 years, and during this time the Lydians not only survived and preserved their identity, but also invented most of the famous games.
    The example of Herodotus demonstrates that the game is not escapism, but a purposeful, thoughtful and extremely useful activity. It is games that are a tool for solving social problems and global cataclysms.

    Life is hard and unpredictable, but the games make it and us better - and quickly, cheaply and efficiently. McGonigal analyzes what characteristics of games make them a means of correcting reality.

    Why do games make us happy?

    The author finds the answer to this question in the definition of the game as a voluntary overcoming of optional obstacles .

    Games induce us to overcome intentionally created obstacles - and in the process to find application for our best qualities. If the game has a successful, properly chosen combination of goal, rules, feedback system, then we will play it until we have exhausted our capabilities or have not completed all the game tasks. Games satisfy our need for “blessed productivity” - pleasant and difficult work that we find ourselves, which we can control and the results of which are available to us almost immediately and visually (including through phasing- the effect of visualization of our improvements in real time, which is actively used by most computer games). The gameplay gives us an optimistic sense of subjectivity - our ability to influence gaming reality with our own resources, the configuration of which directly depends on the player's actions - and, in general, inspires confidence in success, in the solvability of any gaming problem and puzzle. This, in general, does not give us reality, but this is precisely the main source of pleasure from the game, which brings us eustress - positive stress, which does not have destructive consequences for the psyche. Eustress is the basis of the fiero feeling (“emotional lift”), which game designers often use.
    Games are a prime example.“Auto-body” activity , or activity, which in itself is a reward. While playing, we do not expect external rewards or career growth. Games enrich us internally by actively engaging in work that brings satisfaction and gives us a chance to succeed.

    Games involve us in emotional collaboration with other people. This is not only about strengthening social ties with friends and family through playing games together. Due to the fact that many players like to teach their friends and acquaintances to play, the games evoke the emotion of naches - a sense of pride that we experience when the person we taught is successful in the game. Another socialization format in games is “socialization through the environment”: players like to share a common virtual environment with other gamers, even if there is no direct interaction with them.

    Finally, the games give us a wonderful feeling of belonging to something epic and large-scale, to the “big plan” and the global community. Collective heroic plots and missions, epic projects, huge maps, inspiring soundtrack arouse in us awe, and the gameplay turns into a real ministry.
    In modern society, computer and video games satisfy the real needs of man, since the real world today cannot satisfy them. Games give a reward that is not in it. They teach, inspire, involve and unite us in ways that are impossible in the ordinary world.
    But with all the advantages of the game, it has one main drawback: as such, the game does not change the reality. People have created a huge number of games that are just a pleasant, interesting and engaging alternative to reality - but is that right? According to the author, it is high time to change the reality itself - to apply game methods and tools to the construction of real, not just virtual life.

    Games in alternate reality

    So, the main mission of the games, in the opinion of the author of the book, is to correct reality, and the solutions developed by game designers simply have to be applied to our daily life. Examples of effective gamification of everyday routine activity McGonigal devotes the second part of the book - “Formation of a new reality”, where he talks about ARG-games - “games in an alternative (augmented) reality” .

    Like any game, ARG is built on a lack of commitment: nothing forces us to play them. At the same time, a properly constructed ARG has convincing goals, interesting obstacles, and a thoughtful feedback system.

    As examples of effective ARG McGonigal leads Chore Wars (gamification of everyday household chores - washing dishes, cleaning, etc.),Quest to Learn (gamification of school education and, more broadly, an example of using the game to create new institutions).
    Application of Nike + - extremely efficient and impressive multiplayer running game that uses GPS, motion sensors and advanced game mechanics to create igropodobnoy feedback and support those who are engaged in sports. Foursquare encourages players to go out more often. Comfort of Strangers gametracked the location of other players and prompted them to spontaneous manifestations of friendliness and “communitas” (the spirit of community), thereby protecting us from feelings of loneliness. The game Bounce connected the generation, prompting the participant to randomly talk on a certain fun topic with a person who is 20 years older or older. JetSet and Day in the Cloud games allow passengers who are waiting at the airport to check-in or aboard an aircraft to overcome the stress and fear of flying and, conversely, make them exciting and desirable.
    The main focus of the author of the book makes on how easily, quickly, without coercion and rewards, ARG solves serious social issues, the solution of which could be spent by ordinary methods with a mass of resources.
    Real-time data and quantitative indicators are the reason why gamers consistently improve their skills in almost any game: the results are constantly evaluated and communicated to them through game progress indicators, points, levels and achievements. Players can clearly see how and when they make progress. Instant positive feedback of this kind encourages players to make even more efforts and succeed in solving more complex problems. So it would not hurt us to make our favorite activities similar to the game. This will help us better
    deal with them and set ourselves higher goals.
    McGonigal not only analyzes the experience of others, but also tells in detail about her own ARG, the author or co-author of which she became. This is the game Cruel 2 B Kind , in which you need to get points for secret, supposedly random manifestations of kindness. In Tombstone Hold 'Em you need to play poker using inscriptions on tombstones (with all the nontriviality and dubiousness of this idea, it has a purely practical use: during the game, to see the necessary characters, players clear tombstones from the accumulated debris). With the help of Top Secret Dance-Off, any shy can join the rhythm of collective dance.

    In addition, to get rid of the effects of an accidental concussion, McGonigal developed SuperBetter- A multiplayer game for the rehabilitation of people with or suffering from a disease is an excellent example of using game design to adapt a person to new living conditions. This book is devoted to her book SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver, and More Resilient.

    Games that change the world

    The third, and most inspirational part of the book tells how “big games” change reality. This is primarily about crowdsourcing projects , which, on the one hand, inherit the mechanics of "ordinary" (virtual) games, but on the other - use them to solve serious scientific, humanitarian and political issues. McGonigal is the developer of several global gamified projects, and it is for such “games” that she sees the most ambitious perspective. And this part of the book is a real balsam for the gamer's soul: time after time the author emphasizes that gamers are people maximally adapted to the changing reality, that it is they who will have the main work on “terraforming” a boring and primitive reality.

    One of the first signs of the emerging crowdsourcing force, McGonigal, believes Investigate Your MP's Expenses, “the world's first massively multi-user investigative journalism project,” implemented in 2009.
    More than 20,000 players became participants in the project, who in a short time could cope with what seemed to be overwhelming work on a detailed analysis of the expenses made by members of the British Parliament. The project developers did everything to make participation in it look like a game: an effective and informative interface, a tape of participants' activity, an achievements page, where the most interesting findings were displayed, etc. As a result, project participants managed to achieve real political change: following the publication of a “collective investigation”, at least 28 deputies resigned or announced their intention to do so.

    The success of this project gave rise to many followers, so that at a certain point crowdsourcing faced a serious problem: there were so many groups and projects that wanted to get participants into their activities and send invitations that there was a shortage of participants themselves and a lack of attention. According to the author, there are so many crowdsourcing groups that “if you divide the total number of Internet users by the number of groups, you will get 8.5 people per group. This is a very small group, and it certainly cannot cope with a Wikipedia-scale project.

    However, truly high-quality, well-designed crowdsourcing projects have great promise. The main thing is that they should be organized according to the principle of a good multiplayer game.

    Like, for example, “Wikipedia”which the author examines in detail and in which at the same time he discovers:

    • "Wonderful game world",
    • excellent game mechanics: “The player’s actions give an obvious, immediate result: editorial changes instantly appear on the site, giving participants a sense of complete control over the gaming environment. The instant result awakens optimism and a sense of self-efficacy. In addition, unlimited opportunities are provided for increasing complexity ”,
    • great gaming community. It also has intense positive interaction, and a meaningful context of collective effort. “Players” often find friends in their environment, meet in the real world. Discussion pages stimulate both competition (discussion of edits) and cooperation (improvement of articles).

    But the main thing that Wikipedia gives its participants is the meaning that is born from the awareness of belonging to a grandiose project that has ambitious goals.

    Wikipedia does not exhaust the list of successful global online projects. McGonigal cites several inspiring examples that brought together Internet users and were able to change the reality:
    Free Rice is a project whose participants earn money for people in the poorest countries by answering questions from an online quiz;
    Folding @ home is a project for a collective study of the structure of protein cells using the computing resources of graphical user computers.
    Lost joules- simulation of the stock game, which allows players to bet on each other's success in saving energy.

    McGonigal believes that in the near future, mankind will have to face a huge number of new and unexpected challenges on a global scale that will require collective opposition and cooperation, the participation of many people.

    Games and gamified projects in this regard are the most effective workouts that form the main skill of the new time - the skill of cooperation. McGonigal recalls the “10,000-hour rule” and asks the question: “What skill do gamers pump through, whose game practice often exceeds 10,000 hours?”. Turns out thisthe skill of cooperation, coordination, creating something new through joint efforts is the key skill of modern man.

    “Collaboration,” the author writes, is a special kind of collaboration that requires three different types of concerted efforts: cooperation, or targeted action to achieve a common goal; coordination, or synchronization of effort and pooling of resources; and joint creativity, or obtaining an innovative result by joint efforts. The third type - joint creativity - separates cooperation from other types of collective efforts: in its essence it is a creative act. Cooperation is not just the achievement of a common goal or the unification of forces, it is the joint creation of something that would be impossible to create alone. ”
    If you are a gamer, discard the remorse that you feel due to overuse of games. Believe me, you do not waste your time, but accumulate a huge virtual experience that is able to show you your true self, that is, your strengths, motives and values. You will see that you have developed an approach to thinking, organizing, and acting to improve the world around you. And, as this book shows, there are already many ways to use games for the benefit of the real world.
    If games are training co-operation, and gamers are the vanguard of changing the world, then game designers and game developers are the architects of the future . This is because they know best how to make people exert maximum efforts, how to reward them for their work, how to motivate them to perform increasingly complex tasks and work effectively as part of numerous groups. In fact, game design is not a profession, but a way of thinking and organizing work, more than ever demanded today and tomorrow to transform the life of humanity.

    With the gamified transformation of reality, the author of the book connects his own activity. As a game designer, McGonigal participated in the design and launch of several global crowdsourcing projects, including Superstruct andWorld Without Oil , whose participants modeled scenarios of the possible future of the planet in the face of potential cataclysms and a sharp limitation of resources. Predictive games turn ordinary people into hopeful individuals with their hands untied, they are trained to look at things in the long-term strategic perspective and to solve problems of a global scale.
    World Without Oil has changed the lives of many gamers - just like mine. This game was developed as proof of the concept that convinced me that we are able to save our real world with the help of a properly selected game. This project prompted me to formulate my greatest hope for the future: the developer of computer games will soon be awarded the Nobel Prize. Since then, I have been promoting this idea wherever possible, hoping to inspire other game developers to fulfill this mission.
    In the conclusion of the book, McGonigal again refers to the episode with the Herodes of Lydia. If they managed to get out of the crisis and learn, through games, to work together to achieve agreed goals, build strong social ties and remain optimistic in the face of enormous problems, then we should be able to do this, especially when we have incomparably large intellectual technical and human resources. Integrating the games into everyday life and transforming the world, we create a new reality, change our lives and become truly happy.

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