Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Guest Review: Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal

I would like to thank Patrick Murphy for taking the time to read and review Reality is Broken for In The Next Room.
On the one hand, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World is a book about games. It talks about a lot of different games, in a lot of different contexts, and even gives some explanations on how to play a few that the author has created as well as some of the more popular games of our day. Video games, board games, even Mary Poppins-style “Let’s clean up the nursery” games, all are touched on within in the pages of this book.

On the other, stronger, better developed and generally more handy of hands, Reality is Broken is about happiness. Specifically, it is a book about the psychology of human happiness. What we want, what makes us happy, and we might go about setting ourselves up for happiness both personally and globally.

Broken into three parts (“Why games make us happy”, “Reinventing reality”, and “How very big games can change the world”), Jane McGonigal takes us through a brief history of how games have impacted upon human happiness throughout the ages and shows us how we can use games to make real improvements in the real world that we all live in. From small things like cleaning the house to huge collaboration efforts like the various wikis online, McGonigal shows us the power that games can have in the real world. Improve your life, and have fun doing it!

I really liked this book. The writing is quick and accessible. The tone is light-hearted, but it still takes its subject matter seriously. Reality is Broken takes on some big issues, and reassures us that not only are the problems soluble, but we have the tools for finding solutions right at our fingertips today, in the form of the people that we pass in the street every day.

I especially appreciated the style of writing. You don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy McGonigal’s enthusiasm for the power of games, and while she does use some terms that are common in gamer-speak like “pwn” or “epic win”, she takes the time to explain both the context and the meaning of those words and phrases. This affords the book a great deal of accessibility to gamers and non-gamers alike, and gives us a clearer picture of how gamers see themselves and the world.

The pacing is also really good. There are a variety of quotes from famous personalities about the importance of games sprinkled throughout the text, and there is never really a dull spot in the book. While the author deals with a lot of studies and research, she is careful to spice things up with anecdotes about how these things have played out in her own life and the lives of people she knows. Stories of dealing with illness or conferences with leading game designers help give us a glimpse into the author’s world and make it easy to identify with what she is saying and why it is important.

I must admit, however, that the unwavering optimism and enthusiasm itself can be a bit draining at times, particularly towards the end where Dr. McGonigal deals with the real potential impact that games can have on our future. Maybe it is the cynic in me, but I have some difficulty in staying bright and chipper in light of the magnitude of some of the problems that she addresses.

That said, I would still enthusiastically recommend Reality is Broken to any and everyone. It is an interesting read with some fun ideas for gamer and non-gamer alike.

Patrick Murphy is a graduate student at Acadia University in Canada. He mostly studies, with the odd video or poker game thrown in to keep life interesting in between readings.

Release Date: January 20th, 2011
Pages: 400
Buy the Book

This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. 

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic! I love an enthusiastic recommendation. I do think she has her sights set really high but I think she has great ideas about harnessing all the time and energy that goes into gaming for something bigger, i.e. world problems. Thank you SO MUCH for being on this tour. We really appreciate it!


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