Friday, March 2, 2012

Book Review: Reality is Broken

I've had the pleasure of speaking to Jane McGonigal a few times, and have great respect for what she's trying to do, and for the passion she brings to the task. Unfortunately, after having slogged through her book, Reality Is Broken I have to give it a fairly negative review. This is unfortunate because as I said, I think what she's trying to do is important.

McGonigal's book is centered around the concept of using games, and the collective effort people put into playing them, to impact the real world. This can run the span of everything from connecting real-world benefits into online games, to using game-like mechanics to encourage behavior in real-world activities.

I found the book suffered from three fundamental flaws:

  1. No discussion of impact to the 'magic circle'. Those espousing the 'magic circle' idea will talk about how games have a fundamental property of taking place in a safe place that doesn't have real-world impact. It seems to me that the more you effect the real world, or the less trivial the effect, the less it's a game.
  2. Flawed logic & poorly connected research. Jane makes many, um, enthusiastic leaps of logic, which are flawed. You can see many that I've highlighted in the Kindle app (I'll figure out how to put a link here).
  3. Lack of an objective look at both sides. In looking at all the good that can be done by motivating people via games,  McGonigal really should have looked at the other side too. Can games be used to effect evil as well? As long as she's only looking at one side of the discussion, it seems flawed.
I really applaud McGonigal's goal and her passion, but I can't recommend the book.

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

1 comment:

Haydn Wright said...

Your review seems fair enough to me-I just finished reading Reality is Broken this morning after a month or so.
Astounding leaps of logic and inferences are in the book.
Should have been edited down, and the repeated use of 'epic win' was unfortunate.
I did read You Are Not A Gadget in the middle of the book though and can wholly recommend that.