REALITY IS BROKEN – A book about the importance and potential of “games” for cultural change. By Jane McGonegal


The amazing popularity of video games shows that the “reality” we have created for ourselves on Earth is much less attractive than the artificial reality of computer games. There is a lot we can learn from this.


A game is defined by four characteristics:

A goal or objective

A set of rules or processes

Clear and unambiguous feedback – so players know how they are doing

Voluntary participation and agreement to abide by the rules


About 800 million people play games regularly on Earth. They spend about 50 billion each year on their games (60 each). Many of them spend almost as much time gaming as they do working.


A game gives us explicit power to do things differently.


A game tempts us to try and solve an unnecessary challenge


A group carries the social authority to redefine norms


To dance is to trust


With Farmville you get to see a list of all your friends on Facebook who also are tending their farms. You can see how they are doing and even help them. This social element is an important reason for its success.


Games provide “flow”and “fiero” in abundance whilst these states are very scarce in real life.


Flow – the satisfying, exhilarating feeling of achievement when all your skills and resources are being applied effectively to a problem


Fiero – the “wow” moments of success – too much of this can lead to addiction


Autotelic – activity that generates intrinsic rewards without the need for external praise or payouts. It is the activity of being fully engaged with the world around us – building up our personal strength and social networks..


The 2009 study of 150 students for 2 years after they graduated from Rochester University found that the achievement of “American dream” objectives like money, success, fame and being found attractive had NO bearing on happiness. In fact those who concentrated on such objectives tended to be less happy. This is called “hedonic adaptation” - you need more and more of the external rewards to get the buzz you think you want (affluenza). Those who looked for these extrinsic rewards had less time for the autotelic activities. Students who built up their personal development and social contacts achieved the greatest happiness irrespective of their money or career achievements.