I recently finished Jane McGonigal’s “Reality is Broken”- a book which discusses game design, improving lives, and changing the world. Sound grand? Yes, but McGonigal presents a strong argument. Far from being the downfall of a generation, the writer argues that video games are enabling collaboration on a scale previously unseen, and that through this form epic (to use the book’s terminology) worldwide positive change will be enabled. Though at times lingering too long on games designed by the author (I think the book would have benefited from more variety), overall it was certainly a gripping (and I don’t use that word very often) and insightful read that I would highly recommend.
I don’t want to give too much of the book away, but will wet your appetite with some of the intriguing facts discussed in the book and finish with an overview from the author herself (from a TED talk):
Did you know…
Lydians: The inhabitants of Lydia, who spent 18 years playing dice games to get through a famine (they would only eat every other day, and occupy themselves with games when not eating).
Fiero: The name for the emotion expressed when you throw your arms up in the air in celebration- usually when winning a game. (An Italian word, but we don’t really have a word for it in English.)
Bringing games to school: There is a school in New York whose entire setup (including the curriculum and extracurricular activities) is game-based. It’s called “Quest to Learn” and it sounds awesome.
Hacking: The term has its origins in the 1950s, when MIT students defined it as ‘creatively tinkering with technology.’
Crowdsourcing: Coined by the technology journalist Jeff Howe in 2006. It amazes me that it was as late as 2006 given its huge prominence (as a word) today.
Duck island: The Guardian’s Investigate Your MP’s Expenses was the world’s first massively multiplayer investigative journalism project. According to the website there are still 234,344 documents to review…
Gadgetry: Africans are ingenious in using what they have to create gadgets- or “hacks.” A selection of them can be seen here http://www.afrigadget.com/.
Wikipedia: it’s estimated that Wikipedia represents the accumulation of 100 million hours of human thought, which is the equivalent of persuading 10,000 people to dedicate five full-time work years to the project.
– On Wikia, there are more than a million articles on ten thousand distinct wikis- each wiki for a different game.
Epic Win: Defined (on Urban Dictionary) as:
1. An unexpected victory from an underdog
2. Something fantastic that has worked out unbelievably well
3. The greatest possible way for man to succeed at anything
4. An expression of happiness and/ or awe at a highly favourable (and often improbable) event that has taken place: “Alright! Epic win!”
Misspent youth: By the age of 21, the average young American has spent somewhere between 2 and 3 thousand hours reading books- and more than 10,000 hours playing computer and video games.
… or Superstar experts? By the age of 20 the top performers in any given field (from violin maestros to hockey players to Bill Gates) had each accumulated at least 10,000 hours of practice at the one thing that eventually made them superstars. What have you spent 10,000 hours doing? (There’s more on this in the TED presentation below.)
Magic number: 1000 players seems to be a critical threshold to allow for an online game to get interesting- to ensure enough diversity among players, to have enough participants to tackle missions on an epic scale, and to produce enough chaotic interaction to generate complex and surprising results.
And now, that TED talk…