Reality Is Broken: Who Needs Reality When We Have Video Games

reality

A new book explores how gaming fulfills many human needs and how gaming may be utilized to solve the world’s problems.Psychology Today reports:

It may be time to stop thinking that what goes down in a game world like Azeroth has no impact on the “real world.”

Azeroth, the fictional location of the epic-scale events in World of Warcraft (WoW), the popular online role-playing game, may as well be a monster-thronged baseball diamond. In WoW, being part of a raid to defeat a nasty boss (powerful enemy) is an experience as “real,” emotionally rich and memorable, as winning a high school championship game. Twelve million rabid players will attest to this.Time spent with digital gaming is no longer considered an escapist pastime for a geek minority, but as integrated into our routines as our morning commutes. According to the Entertainment Software Association, almost 70 percent of all heads of household and 97 percent of youth are gamers, 40 percent of these being female.

As gaming and real life converge, Jane McGonigal’s Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World (Penguin, 388 pp., illustrated, $26.95) is the right book at the right time. McGonigal proposes a fascinating and provocative, if troubling, manifesto that adds to our understanding of the appeal and potential power of digital games.

McGonigal’s central thesis is this: Reality is discouraging, unproductive, disconnected, and broken in about a dozen other ways. Meanwhile, electronic games are already “fulfilling genuine human needs,” she writes, in ways that our real lives often fail to. If lessons learned from Call of Duty or Wii boxing were applied to everyday life, could reality be “fixed”? Could day-to-day drudgery be slayed?

McGonigal replies: Game on!…

For more information, see original article.

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  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    WoW addicts are as pacified as heroin addicts, you just get less physiological diseases. The video game world is very diverse, but of course we’re going to see the most addictive, I’m sorry, most popular game out there setting the standards. There are much better games with much greater communities than the MMO games out there, that are significantly more thought-provoking at the same time…

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    WoW addicts are as pacified as heroin addicts, you just get less physiological diseases. The video game world is very diverse, but of course we’re going to see the most addictive, I’m sorry, most popular game out there setting the standards. There are much better games with much greater communities than the MMO games out there, that are significantly more thought-provoking at the same time…

    • Belcat2

      Wow is a lot more fulling to a person’s needs than heroin. With heroin, you get the drug. Period. With Wow, you usually end up with some socializing with other players, quests require you to understand and interpret the text you read (something a lot of people have problems with). Often, you are in a guild, and so some social understanding is needed, people are petty sometimes, people like to be stroked sometimes, etc, all very real-world type things. There’s even an economy which you can try to juggle with and make money off of.
      There’s probably other things I could think of if I felt like writing some more…
      Now, contrast this with the previous great pacifier, TV, and tell me which is worse? I am sure Wow players end up burning more calories (even if it’s not that much!) and using more of their brains than TV watchers.

      • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

        I cannot say its worse than TV that’s for sure. The majority of the allure is the social aspect, but the problem is not that it is not fulfilling enough. The problem is that it is possibly too fulfilling for a virtual reward. It has gotten to the point where it is no longer a distraction from real life, but it becomes more important than reality. Escapism is fine as a self treatment, but when it becomes your purpose, and the only reason you get a job, thats disturbing. I’d rather someone be a WoW addict than someone who spends his life binge drinking at frat parties, or some other destructive social choice. However given the choice of mastery of the intricacies of music, a gift in writing abilities, an intrinsic understanding of math and science, or knowing the perfect class combination and character build styles to beat bosses in WoW which would you choose. Unfortunately too many have chosen the last choice as their strongest character traits, and that is scary.

      • E.B. Wolf

        You must be getting really shitty heroin.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been thinking about this recently. I’ve moved a lot in my life and in this way have lost many friends. At times I was in situations where I couldn’t get out of the house. -40 outside and no car means your options are limited. At another time I was in a culture so alien to the one I grew up in that I practically couldn’t talk to anyone. Et cetera, et cetera. I know many people with similar experiences.
    As a consequence in the last decade I spent a lot of time 1) playing PC games, 2) reading books, 3) watching movies. In retrospect, I was escaping a rather dull and limited reality. Kept me from going completely nuts.
    Not that I didn’t have a social life. In fact, at times I was spending too much time with my friends and we weren’t saying anything new or even enjoying the company. Too much of a good thing can be bad (but not with everything :p ).
    Again, a lot of people are in the same boat. The elitist fucks have made a world where you have to move a bunch of times – to get out of the province, be that the third world or just plain Missouri, then to get an education which is supposed to be the only sure ticket out of slavery, then you move around to get jobs, and so on. There is something weird going on with the sexual atmosphere in North America – people are getting fat and not too hot, all the medications kill the sex drive, feminism has become a strange monster…
    Gaming offers a way out of all this. You load up the game and off you go – you are the hero, the protagonist, a demi-god. The shittiness of the world outside subsides. It’s like alcohol but without the hangover. The image-based nature of the medium makes it more accessible than books. If you drive people into a corner, then what can they do? They have to live somehow.

    Of course, as Chaorder Gradient says, gaming is a type of Huxlean Soma – a drug to keep people quiet. But so are alcohol and TV. If a social movement develops, the gamers will likely join it, too.

    Games have the potential to be next art form. They can combine literature, music and cinema with the key new ingredient of interactivity. So far few games can qualify as art (for example Fallout, Europa Universalis, Max Payne, the old Lucasarts and Sierra games, Starcraft?, some Matrix Games, Halflife…), but in the future we should see a maturing of the medium. The barriers of entry for gaming have vanished. You still need to go through the publishing houses to publish a book, and you still need some money to make a movie, but all you need to write a game is free time and motivation. These days we have phenomenal and ever-increasing computer power, high-level programming languages, art and music exchange portals, and powerful and accessible graphics and music-generating software. The Internet permits cooperation across continents. The doors are open! It’s only a matter of time before people start going through them.

    Meanwhile we ought to work to make ‘reality’ better. But gaming would have a place even in a better world. It liberates one’s imagination and we will always enjoy that.

  • hucksawyer

    I’ve been thinking about this recently. I’ve moved a lot in my life and in this way have lost many friends. At times I was in situations where I couldn’t get out of the house. -40 outside and no car means your options are limited. At another time I was in a culture so alien to the one I grew up in that I practically couldn’t talk to anyone. Et cetera, et cetera. I know many people with similar experiences.
    As a consequence in the last decade I spent a lot of time 1) playing PC games, 2) reading books, 3) watching movies. In retrospect, I was escaping a rather dull and limited reality. Kept me from going completely nuts.
    Not that I didn’t have a social life. In fact, at times I was spending too much time with my friends and we weren’t saying anything new or even enjoying the company. Too much of a good thing can be bad (but not with everything :p ).
    Again, a lot of people are in the same boat. The elitist fucks have made a world where you have to move a bunch of times – to get out of the province, be that the third world or just plain Missouri, then to get an education which is supposed to be the only sure ticket out of slavery, then you move around to get jobs, and so on. There is something weird going on with the sexual atmosphere in North America – people are getting fat and not too hot, all the medications kill the sex drive, feminism has become a strange monster…
    Gaming offers a way out of all this. You load up the game and off you go – you are the hero, the protagonist, a demi-god. The shittiness of the world outside subsides. It’s like alcohol but without the hangover. The image-based nature of the medium makes it more accessible than books. If you drive people into a corner, then what can they do? They have to live somehow.

    Of course, as Chaorder Gradient says, gaming is a type of Huxlean Soma – a drug to keep people quiet. But so are alcohol and TV. If a social movement develops, the gamers will likely join it, too.

    Games have the potential to be next art form. They can combine literature, music and cinema with the key new ingredient of interactivity. So far few games can qualify as art (for example Fallout, Europa Universalis, Max Payne, the old Lucasarts and Sierra games, Starcraft?, some Matrix Games, Halflife…), but in the future we should see a maturing of the medium. The barriers of entry for gaming have vanished. You still need to go through the publishing houses to publish a book, and you still need some money to make a movie, but all you need to write a game is free time and motivation. These days we have phenomenal and ever-increasing computer power, high-level programming languages, art and music exchange portals, and powerful and accessible graphics and music-generating software. The Internet permits cooperation across continents. The doors are open! It’s only a matter of time before people start going through them.

    Meanwhile we ought to work to make ‘reality’ better. But gaming would have a place even in a better world. It liberates one’s imagination and we will always enjoy that.

  • Anonymous

    Wow is a lot more fulling to a person’s needs than heroin. With heroin, you get the drug. Period. With Wow, you usually end up with some socializing with other players, quests require you to understand and interpret the text you read (something a lot of people have problems with). Often, you are in a guild, and so some social understanding is needed, people are petty sometimes, people like to be stroked sometimes, etc, all very real-world type things. There’s even an economy which you can try to juggle with and make money off of.
    There’s probably other things I could think of if I felt like writing some more…
    Now, contrast this with the previous great pacifier, TV, and tell me which is worse? I am sure Wow players end up burning more calories (even if it’s not that much!) and using more of their brains than TV watchers.

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    I cannot say its worse than TV that’s for sure. The majority of the allure is the social aspect, but the problem is not that it is not fulfilling enough. The problem is that it is possibly too fulfilling for a virtual reward. It has gotten to the point where it is no longer a distraction from real life, but it becomes more important than reality. Escapism is fine as a self treatment, but when it becomes your purpose, and the only reason you get a job, thats disturbing. I’d rather someone be a WoW addict than someone who spends his life binge drinking at frat parties, or some other destructive social choice. However given the choice of mastery of the intricacies of music, a gift in writing abilities, an intrinsic understanding of math and science, or knowing the perfect class combination and character build styles to beat bosses in WoW which would you choose. Unfortunately too many have chosen the last choice as their strongest character traits, and that is scary.

  • me turn U turn

    I saw a program recently (horizon?) where major burn victims were given a simple game to play while their bandages were changed which greatly reduced the registering of pain. Any thing else you know of that can kill pain this well? Charorder Gragient does.

  • me turn U turn

    I saw a program recently (horizon?) where major burn victims were given a simple game to play while their bandages were changed which greatly reduced the registering of pain. Any thing else you know of that can kill pain this well? Charorder Gragient does.

    • me turn U turn

      Another documentary about computer game addiction revealed the techniques used to hook people to video games are the same as those for gambling machine, that is random rewards. The brain tries and tries to find a pattern in the rewards and is induced to keep playing to find one but never does. Look at skinner box on utube. Good luck pigeons.

      • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

        I like how Zynga(that “company” that makes all the facebook “games”) has a cognitive psychologist on staff just to make them more addictive using these sorts of methods.

  • Harden Long

    I play in a band with 3 hard core gamers. I myself casually game, playing maybe 5 hours a week, if that.

    I write all the music, book all the shows, design all the art, do all the promotion, pay for everything, etc. I also work out regularly, have the most money, and the best looking girlfriend/sex life. In fact, that’s basically how the band works. 3 hard core game addicts, one guy who has to do everything to keep the band running. Now, these are all musicians, who want to play in bands and stuff, it’s just, that ultimately they get caught up playing video games, and thusly never accomplish anything in regards to this goal. I basically drag them away from their consoles to play rock a few times a week. I’m open to other people writing songs in the band, but to this day (going on 2 plus years now) not one of them has completed a single thought on this side, because they’re too busy playing video games.

    I can’t stress enough, I love video games, but shit can get way out of hand, and to pretend it isn’t just as dangerous and addictive as T.V., fast food, alcohol or drugs and is somehow the answer to everything is beyond retarded.

    My brother’s wife left him because he’s basically the stereotype of a stoner who has zero ambitions in life other than to get high and play video games. Women actually talk about this a lot because it’s such a cliche. You don’t want to be the pot smoking video game slacker. Women hate that. To this day, he will not even acknowledge that his gaming addiction had anything to do with this, even though that’s pretty much what she told me in no uncertain terms on various occasions. I remember years ago he took like a week off to “write songs”. No songs were written, many video games were played. To this day, I try and point out to him that maybe his constant gaming is an issue, but like any true addict, this cannot be questioned, in any way, ever. This book basically might as well be an alcoholic arguing that alcohol can solve all the world’s problems.

    Now, I must make it clear again, I love video games. Amazing and the only artistic medium (when it is that, a lot of times it’s not) that keeps improving with time, but yeah, there are some downsides. This has been my experience with my gaming friends. You can take it or leave it.

    • http://www.nickmeador.org/ ndmeador

      I think our awareness of psychological addiction is going to grow a lot in the coming years. From reading the above excerpt, it seems like McGonigal’s stance is a little too narrow. Yes, video games show enormous promise for expanding our imagination and our conception of “reality.” But video games are probably the number 1 reason why my generation is so apathetic about everything happening in the world around them.

      With that said, I just wrote a post about a Nintendo Wii game that expanded my ideas of what virtual reality could really offer us: http://supraterranean.com/blog/2011/02/10/rethinking-virtual-reality/

  • Harden Long

    I play in a band with 3 hard core gamers. I myself casually game, playing maybe 5 hours a week, if that.

    I write all the music, book all the shows, design all the art, do all the promotion, pay for everything, etc. I also work out regularly, have the most money, and the best looking girlfriend/sex life. In fact, that’s basically how the band works. 3 hard core game addicts, one guy who has to do everything to keep the band running. Now, these are all musicians, who want to play in bands and stuff, it’s just, that ultimately they get caught up playing video games, and thusly never accomplish anything in regards to this goal. I basically drag them away from their consoles to play rock a few times a week. I’m open to other people writing songs in the band, but to this day (going on 2 plus years now) not one of them has completed a single thought on this side, because they’re too busy playing video games.

    I can’t stress enough, I love video games, but shit can get way out of hand, and to pretend it isn’t just as dangerous and addictive as T.V., fast food, alcohol or drugs and is somehow the answer to everything is beyond retarded.

    My brother’s wife left him because he’s basically the stereotype of a stoner who has zero ambitions in life other than to get high and play video games. Women actually talk about this a lot because it’s such a cliche. You don’t want to be the pot smoking video game slacker. Women hate that. To this day, he will not even acknowledge that his gaming addiction had anything to do with this, even though that’s pretty much what she told me in no uncertain terms on various occasions. I remember years ago he took like a week off to “write songs”. No songs were written, many video games were played. To this day, I try and point out to him that maybe his constant gaming is an issue, but like any true addict, this cannot be questioned, in any way, ever. This book basically might as well be an alcoholic arguing that alcohol can solve all the world’s problems.

    Now, I must make it clear again, I love video games. Amazing and the only artistic medium (when it is that, a lot of times it’s not) that keeps improving with time, but yeah, there are some downsides. This has been my experience with my gaming friends. You can take it or leave it.

  • me turn U turn

    Another documentary about computer game addiction revealed the techniques used to hook people to video games are the same as those for gambling machine, that is random rewards. The brain tries and tries to find a pattern in the rewards and is induced to keep playing to find one but never does. Look at skinner box on utube. Good luck pigeons.

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    I like how Zynga(that “company” that makes all the facebook “games”) has a cognitive psychologist on staff just to make them more addictive using these sorts of methods.

  • http://www.nickmeador.org/ ndmeador

    I think our awareness of psychological addiction is going to grow a lot in the coming years. From reading the above excerpt, it seems like McGonigal’s stance is a little too narrow. Yes, video games show enormous promise for expanding our imagination and our conception of “reality.” But video games are probably the number 1 reason why my generation is so apathetic about everything happening in the world around them.

    With that said, I just wrote a post about a Nintendo Wii game that expanded my ideas of what virtual reality could really offer us: http://supraterranean.com/blog/2011/02/10/rethinking-virtual-reality/

  • zap_brannigan

    svali…..

  • E.B. Wolf

    You must be getting really shitty heroin.