I need to first of all thank Lisa of TLC Book Tours for forgiving me about forgetting to post my review of this remarkable book last week like I was supposed to. When I first heard about this book on Twitter I was immediately interested. Jane McConigal has created a work that in title alone grabs my interest: Reality is Broken – Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. For me, the interest is two fold. The title connects with my dystopic sensibilities. If reality is broken, what does that mean for us who think they are content living in it? As far as the subtitle goes, I have always been a little bit of a closet gamer myself. I have played a fair share of hours on various RPGs and MMOs.
If all that wasn’t enough there is something very striking about the cover to me. When it first showed up in the mail my senses started tingling because of all the ways that this book looked interesting to me. Of course books are so much more than their cover, but it still doesn’t stop me from getting excited about them.
First line: “Gamers have had enough of reality.”
This first line of this book seems appropriate enough. Isn’t gaming a lot about escaping for a little while. It is the same reason why we read and watch movies. I think a lot of people have had enough of reality. But gamers seem to be a special breed of escapists.
“Who are they? They are the nine-to-fivers who come home and apply all of the smarts and talents that are underutilized at work….” To me this is one of the essential ways that reality IS broken. The way that as a society we have failed to find a way to take advantage of the mental resources of many individuals who are forced to support their family with mindless, menial work. These are only one type of gamer that McConigal writes about but she continues, “as they devote more and more of their free time to game worlds, the real world increasingly feels like it’s missing something.”
McConigal makes a strong case that this need to escape is a symptom we shouldn’t ignore. We can even use the ideas of gaming to boost productivity in homes and in school. Yesterday Reality Is Broken was reviewed in the L. A. Times. Reviewer Janice P. Nimura said of the book, “I was skeptical about the message in ‘Reality Is Broken.’ But Jane McGonigal is worth hearing out — her point in this provocative manifesto is that the energy and devotion that gamers pour into video games is a powerful force and that we are fools if we fail to harness it.” What McConigal brings to the table is a new perspective. I am pretty sure that anyone who reads her book could take something useful and motivating out of it, even if they weren’t buying into the concept.
Reality Is Broken does a nice job of balancing out approachability for both gamers and non gamers. If you game already you can find a little bit of yourself on the page, but if you don’t there aren’t a lot of references and jargon to confuse you. While the book may be a little over simplistic about the realities of life, the little fixes that McGonigal suggest throughout the book could easily be applied in different areas of many people’s lives.
If you think you would enjoy Reality Is Broken then you are in luck! The Penguin Press is offering one of my lucky readers a copy of the book. Leave a comment saying you are interested and you will be entered into the giveaway. Be sure to check out Mr. X’s review and enter HIS giveaway. Both contests end 2/12/2011 and are open to the US and Canada only. Be warned that if I don’t have a way to contact you I will not be able to pick you as a winner. Thanks again to Lisa, TLC Book Tours, The Penguin Press, and of course Jane McGonigal.