Throughout the first few chapters of “Reality is Broken,” McGonigal makes several arguments, some more compelling than others. In my previous post, I raised three questions: 1) How will gaming affect the health of the world? 2)How will the pursuit of “fiero” in games affect the productivity of the world? Conversely, how would have it affected our past? 3) Removing ourselves from context, how can we explain this concept outside of the Western/Developed world?
I’ll start with my first question about how gaming will affect the health of the world. Having people spending a collective 3 billion hours a week playing games is troublesome. At this point, in the United States, for every $6 dollars the government spends, $1 goes to healthcare. This represents almost 17% of the GDP and totals $2.267 trillion annually and rising. Granted we spend more money on healthcare than most countries, this is something that needs to be lessened dramatically. For the majority of video games, they are played in an inactive state. There have been an increase of “active” video games, but who are we kidding that the Wii fit is improving our health. Most people probably spend most of the time doing the balancing games, which require minimal efforts. I digress. Having billions of people in sedentary states can do nothing but exacerbate the health care issues plaguing the world. Non-digital games (i.e. soccer, tennis, etc.) can remedy the situation, but that doesn’t leave much room for McGonigal’s argument. Realistically, the idea of tying non-video game activities to video games is the most logical answer. McGonigal highlights the opportunity in this connection when discussing Chore Wars, a game allowing real world activity to give you rewards to your in-game avatar. This issue is definitely something that needs to be addressed, and I’m guessing she will later in the book.
My second question deals with the idea of how pursuing the “fiero” or pride of accomplishment in games will affect the productivity of the world. With people expending their time and energy in unproductive games, this will diminish their positive productivity outside of games. One of McGonigal’s answers is to make work more like games, a wonderful concept. Someone who works in a customer service center for a cable company would benefit from making their work more enjoyable; however, even if they game-ify their work, at the end of the day they are still having to deal with irate customers. I guess anything that improves their enjoyment of work is better than nothing. Even if developers succeeded in making “better-the-world” games, why would consumers play them over the newest Halo or World of Warcraft expansion? For this theory to work, the games would need to be as appealing commercially as other mainstream games, which could prove to be very difficult. As to the second part of my question, I just wonder where our world would be today if Tim Berners-Lee was too occupied with games to invent the WWW. I know it is an extreme example, but games inevitably take time and energy that might be better applied elsewhere.
My final question deals with the application of her theory outside of the Western world/developed nations. The idea that we need video games to create happiness and pride would be a very difficult concept for someone who doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from. I know Mcgonigal has already created a game geared towards helping third-world nations, but I think we can do other things to help around the world. On the contrary, if we can find a way to help people around the world through games, then I am all for it. Again, this is the whole point of “Reality is Broken,” so I’m sure McGonigal with expand on this concept. I merely just question the viability of it. This book is directed towards a Western, primarily American audience, so I guess it doesn’t have to apply to the entire world; however, I think we need to be more understanding of what is happening around the world and not just our individual happiness.
Sidenote: In spite of my harsh criticism, I am thoroughly enjoying “Reality is Broken,” and think McGonigal has raised some very good and realistic points.