Reality is Broken: Jane McGonigal

Posted on March 10th, 2016 by:

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Games today come in more forms, platforms and genres than any other time in human history. The amount of time people spend playing Video Games is a subject that has been debated for a long time in the public. Most people believe that spending time with games eats up valuable time one could be using more productively elsewhere. Collectively, people around the world today spend more than 3 billion hours a week gaming.

Jane Mcgonigal advocates that games might help solve many problems that people face in their life, on a small and grand scale. From helping to alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. “I foresee games that tackle global-scale problems like climate change and poverty.” (Jane Mcgonigal.) Author Jane Macgonigal (Ph.D) is the director of game research and develoment at the institute for the future. She is widely known for her keynote address at TED on gaming, as well as her work being featured on The Economist, and New York Times.


TEDGlobal 2012 – June 25 – 29, 2012, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: James Duncan Davidson


In the United States alone, there are 183 million active gamers (individuals who say they play video games on average, about thirteen hours a week.) There are 4 million gamers in the middle east, 10 million in Russia, 105 million in India, 10 million in Vietnam, 10 million in Mexico, 15 million in Australia, 200 million in China (you get the idea.) The typical gamer plays for just an hour or two per day, but now more than 6 million people in china spend at least twenty two hours a week gaming, which basically amounts to a part time job.

This book asks the question, why have people migrated towards gaming, and spend so much time in game?  I think Jane Mcgonigal cleverly asks the question that if people are doing this already and spending so much time in games, how can we use this to our advantage? How can games change the world for the better? Mcgonigal has already proved that games can be applied to help with real world problems in her “alternate reality” games. She is the inventer and co-founder of the game SuperBetter, which helped half a million players tackle real-life health issues, such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and traumatic brain injury. She also developed the game World Without Oil, and Find The Future.


Our stereotypes for what makes a gamer, and who plays games have completely changed over the past few decades.

  • 69% of heads of household play computer  and video games,
  • 97% of youth play computer and video games,
  • 40% of gamers are women, one out of four gamers is over the age of fifty, t
  • the average game player is thirty-five years old and has been playing for twelve years, and most players expect to continue playing for the rest of their lives.
  • The average high level executive including chief executive officers and presidents revealed that 70% of them play casual computer games while working in 15 minute to one hour breaks.

Games are designed from the ground up to challenge the player, to be funner than real life, and the seduction factor of games is very high for people. As games stand right now, they can and do have a mostly positive influence over people’s lives. That trend can continue if we take a conscientious approach to how we make games. While shooting Nazi zombies, and alien space bugs can help our motor skills or hasten our decision making skills in real life. Or solving puzzles in game can help our spatial reasoning, and problem solving in real life. These benefits for the most part are unintentional byproducts of gaming. We can make games purposefully to help us solve real world problems, and Jane Mcgonigal’s book Reality Is Broken is a great start to learn how we can do so.

Click on the text or image if you are interested in purchasing:

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

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