Recommended: Reality is Broken, by Jane McGonigal

A lucid, if idealistic account of the role that games can play in improving the world around us while making us happier and more engaged human beings.

I’ve just finished reading Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal and I would like to take the opportunity to recommend it to you. It’s an important book for a number of reasons.

McGonigal lays out the way games can be used to improve our happiness, our environment and our sense of self-efficacy. Along the way, she gives examples of how games work and the psychological effect they can have if designed and played well. She covers a variety of examples, ranging from ancient dice games to modern video games, to a new breed of real-world cooperative games, and explains the key features of each along the way. I can safely say that you need not be a gamer to read this book. McGonigal does an excellent job of making the games, as well as the science, approachable.

The book is certainly idealistic. McGonigal is laying out a vision for a future where we have learnt to gamify reality to suit our needs. While she touches on issues of violence and addiction as well as the disillusionment that can accompany too much gaming, you won’t find here, a detailed and comprehensive overview of the challenges and downsides to a world in which we increasingly play games. This is as much manifesto as anything else, but don’t let that deter you. The book is about learning to use things to our advantage — in this case the potential games have to help us be more motivated, more engaged and, ultimately, happier, while improving the world in which we live. In a media climate where everything we read about games and their impact on us seems to be a dire warning, a book like this is refreshing, to say the least.

I highly recommend Reality is Broken to anyone who is interested in games, or who thinks that we might need to take a different approach to the world and the challenges it presents.

You can find out more about the book and its author at realityisbroken.org