Games after “Reality is Broken”

Your Mission

Before beginning this blog post your mission is to write a short list of the games that you played — and were passionate about — before the age of 10. The length of your list should be the same as the last digit of your age. My list has 8 games. If the last digit of your age is 0 move to the first digit and make that the length the list. Once you have accomplished this mission, you will have reached the next level and you can begin.  One more thing: It doesn’t matter if it’s a computer game or not.

Here is my game list:

  • Hopscotch
  • Jacob’s Ladder
  • Hide and Seek
  • Cootie Catcher
  • Jacks
  • Tag
  • Jump rope
  • Checkers

Great job on your list!  You have now officially attained the level of Gamer. If your list was longer than the requirements you are now a Super-Gamer!

What Makes a Game

The first level of Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal discusses the four defining traits of all games and the benefits of those traits.

  • The Goal: Provides a sense of purpose.
  • The Rules: Limitations unleash creativity and foster creativity.
  • The Feedback System: Provides promise and motivation to keep playing.
  • Voluntary Participation: Everyone playing the game accepts the goal, the rules and the feedback.

Games can be designed around anything. They only require the traits described above.

Gamer Skills

Jane McGonigal builds her book around the idea of a series of fixes for reality that are taken from games but she starts with why we should be paying attention in the first place.

The game culture is huge and growing. More and more people leave the real world on a daily basis to spend time in virtual gaming environments. They find the feedback and stimulation of  these environments more challenging and rewarding than the feedback provided by the real world.  People participate, gain new skills and feel that they have more control over their destiny in games than they do in reality.

One of my favorite reality fixes was that people can have “fails” and don’t become distressed in games. If they fail in a game world they are motivated to try again — especially when the game is designed to allow failure in an entertaining fashion.

The other big fix she discusses is the high-level collaborative skills that gamers develop through the process of voluntarily participating in confronting a challenge, solving that challenge, and thereby working to the edge of their skills. As a result, they achieve greater skills.

Her point — and this is where she got my attention — was that gamers are developing skills in virtual worlds that can be utilized to help solve very difficult problems in the real world.  She weaves discussions from the study of “flow” and positive psychology into game design and explains why virtual game experiences are so compelling and how we can apply these lessons to real world problems and challenges.

Are you ready to play?

A number of “epic” games are discussed but I’m going to list just a few that had an immediate impact on me. They are pretty broad in topic but all share the goal of bridging the virtual game world with reality based challenges. World Without Oil is dealing with big picture macro-impact, but I also liked the micro-impact games like Chore Wars.

A game to help you tackle your chores
Chore Wars

An injury and illness recovery game

A game to help end world hunger
Free Rice

Scavenger hunt available through the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Ghosts of a Chance

Collaboration between gamers and the University of Washington departments of computer science, engineering and biochemistry
Fold It! Solve Puzzles for Science

A telephone game to help bridge cross-generational communication.
Bounce: A game to close the generation Gap

World Without Oil

There are more fascinating ideas in this book. Find out more about it on the website

So read it and then go play!

Thanks for your attention and have a good week.


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