Thougts on ‘Reality is Broken’

Prior to cracking this book open, my ‘gaming’ experience, if you will, was limited to the scrabble iPhone app and of course Tetris.  When McGonigal touched on both of those games I was glad to feel included in this complex world I knew nothing about.  It seems that games can be a great conduit for improving our lives. I really like the idea of integrating ARGs into schooling, I think that it is a wonderful idea that should be closely looked at to improve the overall involvement of children in their own educations.  My thoughts on other types of gaming differ somewhat.

The subject of leisure gaming is something I was interested to explore.  I did not realize the breadth and depth of these games, and how serious users take them.  I have heard of WoW and Halo but I had no idea how invested people are in these alternate universes.  It makes me wonder, are we, like Herodotus’ people, actually starving for happiness or some other need that is not being met?

My initial thought on the hours and hours spent on games, was that it was forcing individuals to become introverts, while allowing them to have the feel of social interaction.  It seems however that there is a good deal of computer mediated communication is occurring, even though it is not traditional in that users are communicating about fictional happenings.  In reading further as McGonigal described multi-player games and the intrinsic feelings of good and camaraderie that come along with playing them, my skepticism changed direction.

I was struck by the fact that people could be so gratified over 10 billion kills in Halo.  Nothing has been gained, it is simply a number on a computer screen, and is there nothing to show for it except for thousands of hours spent behind a computer.  And when McGonigal went on to talk about how Halo players have used almost as much space as the entirety of written human history in just six years I was taken aback.  If all of these gaming hours could be spent in ‘chore wars’, then maybe we’d be getting somewhere.

I look at the depth of involvement of users in all of the games McGonigal brings up, this makes me wonder what specific quality draws people in such numbers, and spans across age and gender.  Is it simply the feeling of fiero?  I am very interested in what drives people to expand wiki pages and to create full fledged online museums that create a virtual world.  I am also interested to see where it goes and what it turns into as the years go on, because we are surely to see great innovation as technology allows us to push boundaries even further.

It seems as if these gaming individuals could be working toward something better, something more substantial.  Yet on the other hand it is their free time, to be used as they see fit. While they might be doing something I do not fully understand the draw of, they sure are doing an amazing job at creating an alternate reality.  I am curious to see if McGonigal’s predictions about gamers creating great change across the world will come to fruition, because they certainly harness the power to do great things.  If the educational side of gaming could take off along with games like Halo and WoW, then the entire gaming industry is truly onto something great.  It is clear that we need one to harbor and facilitate the other.

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