Games - Part 2

Following are some of the insights I gained from reading Jane McGonigal's Reality is Broken. This is the second of what will be three or four posts about the book.

-Good games allow us to enter a state of flow in which we are challenged to perform at the very edge of our skill level. This is a state that most people quite enjoy.

-"The opposite of play isn't work. It's depression." Depression is characterized by a pessimistic sense of inadequacy and despondent lack of activity. When enjoying a game we experience the opposite of these conditions: an optimistic sense of our own capabilities and an invigorating rush of activity.

-We like hard work, we actually seek it out as is witnessed by the very demanding recreational activities people pursue. This is similar to the concept of 'hard fun' that John Seely Brown has examined. The problem is that many jobs involve hard work that we don't like or enjoy. 

-When we are doing hard work we enjoy we experience positive stress or eustress, which although similar from a neurological standpoint to negative stress, is experienced quite differently. "As long as we feel capable of meeting the challenge, we report being highly motivated, extremely interested, and positively engaged by stressful situations."

-We much prefer enlivening time rather than killing time.

-McGonigal believes intrinsic rewards fall into four broad categories.

1. We crave satisfying work

2. We crave being successful

3. We crave social connection

4. We crave meaning

If we are able to obtain these intrinsic rewards we tend to be quite happy, but large parts of our society work very hard at convincing us that we should instead pursue wealth, fame and beauty, none of which tend to promote happiness. McGonigal believes that games can help us opt out of the ultimately unsatisfying pursuit of extrinsic rewards.

"Games don't fuel our appetitie for extrinsic reward: they don't pay us, they don't advance our careers, and they don't help us accumulate luxury goods. Instead, games enrich us with intrinsic rewards. They actively engage us in satisfying work that we have the chance to be successful at. They give us a highly structured way to spend time and build bonds with people we like. And if we play a game long enough, with a big enough network of players, we feel a part of something bigger than ourselves -- part of an epic story, an important project, or a global community."

3 responses
Here is a question that needs to be answered , "If students do not get to learn about what they want to learn about in school, how can the work be at all satisfying, how can that be successful at anything that means anything to them, how can they have any real social connections with classmates based on what they are doing in class and how can they find any meaning in themselves or the world"
I suspect most kids find something in school that they are interested in and enjoy doing. Might be sports for one, music for another, computer programming for someone else, etc.. To your point though, I agree that there are probably many who find great chunks of the school day unsatisfying and just learn to deal with it. One might argue that they are in training for jobs that will have a similar characteristic. The big challenge for education is to somehow change this. There are certainly lots of people trying, working with older progressive models (Montessori, Coalition for Essential Schools, Big Picture Schools) and newer project-based models (Edvisions, High Tech High, Science Leadership Academy) but I haven't seen much with a progressive bent in the online world so perhaps there is an opportunity there.
great post.. i love Jane's book/thinking.