I probably would have been aware of this book because of the game world I already live in, but I picked it up when I found out that McGonigal was the keynote speaker at PAX East. I got my copy from the library, read about 40 pages, returned it and bought my own book so I could write in it. This is a great text.
McGonigal’s research and premise are simple: People like games more than they like reality. Ergo, games work better than reality. However, rather than leaving it at that and writing an academic piece about the morality or societal impacts of gaming, McGonigal asks what we, game designers especially, can do to make reality more like games and how can we use games to make our reality better.
Part One: Why Games Make Us Happy was my favorite part because I related to nearly every sentence. McGonigal explains the impact gaming has on the gamer and I was constantly nodding along as I read and reading parts out loud to my husband. This is a world I know, information that I was already familiar with, and insights that I’d never thought of that made a lot of sense once she pointed them out.
I would have enjoyed this had it been a small text and was only the first section, but she continues on to address her theory and give examples of how she’s already using it to change things and how she’s challenging others to create epic moments that will solve real world problems. I was worried at first that this was going to be an ivory tower text that was going to come up with ideas that would make people in the real world roll their eyes (even if that real world is the gaming world) but McGonigal is much smarter than that. She gives solid examples and highlights the potential that game developers and gamers already have.
I’m trying to get one of my non-gamer friends to read this to get some insights on how an outsider thinks. Even as I was agreeing and cheering while reading, I knew I was already on her side. I’m curious to know if non-gamers would dismiss her as fluffy science or acknowledge that while they don’t agree, they can see the appeal and potential.