Gaming for good

I want so badly to believe in (and live in) this world that McGonigal is envisioning. It sounds like so much fun. It sounds like I would always have a plethora of friends, everyone would love me for my strengths, and age-old human divisions and labels would fade away. More importantly, everyone on the planet would come together to work toward goals for good.

That sounds lovely. I’m trying to cling to this merging of realities she depicts, but I keep feeling like I have to give up my own reality to do so. It’s that feeling of trying to hold two conflicting ideas in my brain. And I think the reason is that, to answer the third question I posed this week, the overarching ideas in “Reality is Broken” are hyperbolic.

Let me focus on one idea she mentioned in particular.

Can you imagine what it would feel like to have six billion people fighting on the same side of a fictional war?

I can not think of one remotely possible scenario in which every person on earth would participate in something. This is obviously an exaggeration given for its emotional and mass appeal. We know it has mass appeal because the book was a bestseller. And she was interviewed on most of the major news networks, even the Colbert Report.

I understand why she would present things the way she does. If she can get people excited about this idea, then maybe society’s overall thinking will shift, stereotypes will break down and people will make a concerted effort to use all of these positive effects of gaming toward a cause greater than “10,000,000 kills.” (And that IS working for me as a reader. I have much greater empathy toward gamers than I did before eye-rollingly picking up “Reality is Broken.”)

But I just hope that the masses who the book appeals to will be capable of reading it critically and taking the important elements from it. Rather than using it to justify blowing off work or living their lives in a virtual reality where war is the main objective. I like to think that life is more than that. And that reality offers more than that.

And, yes, I understand that that’s what she thinks too. I do think her intentions are to point out exactly that–that we need to fix reality. But that doesn’t mean that all, or even most, people will read through the hyperbole. I don’t trust a society that’s been failing to live in the ways she presents for millions of years.

And to answer my other two questions, I don’t think the world does have access to games right now, and likely we don’t have near enough resources to make her world (the merging of worlds) a reality. It would require teachers, trainers, experts, electronics galore and a heck of a lot of flexible people willing to restructure society.

That said, I haven’t given up on her ideas and am still interested to see what her final call to action is.


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