Thoughts On “Reality Is Broken”

I like this book a lot. It’s entertaining, insightful and funny. It has certainly changed my opinion about gaming and gamers, and has inspired me to go a few rounds of slaying zombies on my iPhone for a midday pick-me-up. But, I’m still looking for answers to my questions.

As I said in my last post, it’s “all positive so far.” I’m about 200 pages in and this still holds true. There has been a lot of information about the positive effects of gaming on individuals (McGonigal used gaming to overcome a concussion), and a bit about the positive effects on society. There have been plenty of examples of games designed to improve peoples feelings towards strangers, personal jogging times and building self esteem and optimism. All of these examples make individuals happier, which I would assume has a net effect on society. But my overarching questions remains: are there any negative consequences to society as a whole?

The hours spent gaming, something like 3 billion collective hours a day, are staggering. These hours are supposedly the most productive for these gamers. With so much energy, effort and time going into gaming, it seems (so far) that the only outcome is personal satisfaction. All the teamwork and problem solving is being spent in a virtual environment that, when all is said and done, doesn’t really make a difference to the global problems we face.

It’s been said again and again that reality is broken and is not nearly as interesting as virtual environments and gaming. Reality is unsatisfying, difficult and boring. Could this be partly because we’ve used a massive amount of human effort to accomplish virtual tasks instead of real tasks? I can’t help but think that if a fraction of the energy spent in gaming over that last 30 years was used to tackle a real world issue that might be contributing to the dullness of reality, like the growing income gap in America, that we might have a solution to these issues. Is this “wasted” effort actually contributing to the demise of American society? Is gaming a vicious cycle?

The term “escapism” comes to mind. What are people escaping from? Reality? Yes, reality is hard. It takes hard work to tackle huge issus in society, and each generation is faced with new and unique challenges. We need all the help we can get to solve our cultural dilemmas. If we can use gaming to help solve these issues, then it all seems to have been worthwhile. If not, then it truly is a massive waste of human time and energy which, in my opinion, is the most precious commodity in the universe.

As Colbert said while interviewing McGonigal, “does it work?”


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