A Response to Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken
1. I was curious about Dr. Jane McConigal’s epigraph choice at the beginning of Reality is Broken. I briefly researched the quote’s author, Professor Bernard Suits, and found that he is known for his work, The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia, published in 1978. The summaries I read about this work stated that this book included Suits’ retort to philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s statement that games are “indefinable”. Suits claims that playing games is ” a voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.” To me, this definition may include a wide assortment of activities including sports, organizations, exercise, etc.
My question lies with McGonigal’s definition of “games” for the purpose of her work. In the Introduction, McGonigal focuses on the “gamer”, rather than focusing on her working definition of “game”. The first statistic she offers on such gamers is a statistic of the United States, stating the country has 183 million “active gamers”. She defines active gamers as “individuals who, in surveys, report that they play computer or video games ‘regularly’-on average, thirteen hours a week,’” (McGonigal 3). Although McGonigal addresses her game definition in chapter 1, the introduction already sets a precedent that she is focused on statistics regarding digital gaming.
Is it relevant for McGonigal to use past definitions of games to support her thesis on the digital age of gaming? Other than her references to Suits, she also points out game playing in Ancient Greece. Attempting to parallel their purposes to modern game playing, she says these games could be “purposeful escapes”. I see the age of digital gaming as one that goes beyond any continuity principle. Is it necessary to define a new definition of “game” to encompass the distinction between digital and other forms of gaming?
2. In the introduction, McGonigal asserts, “The truth is: in today’s society computer games and video games are fulfilling genuine human needs that the real world is currently unable to satisfy,” (McGonigal 4). This is an intriguing proposal, although I find it bold. I’m curious to see how McGonigal will support this statement. Is there quantitative evidence measuring the psychological and emotional fulfillment of human beings from video and computer games in opposition to the “real world”? Is this not relative to the individual’s position in the real world? Also, how will the world of gaming be made distinct from the real world? Where is that line drawn?
3. I am also curious about McGonigal’s main thesis, inferred by the title of the book, as she speaks for so-called “gamers”. She states that gamers wonder, “Where in the real world, is that gamer sense of being fully alive, focused, and engaged in every moment?” (McGonigal 3). I buy the sense of continual engagement, but the sense of feeling fully alive, as oppose to this being experienced in the “real world”, begs for further explanation. She adds that “Reality doesn’t motivate us effectively,” (McGonigal 3). What are we being motivated to do by games? What is viewed as positive purpose of motivation? McGonigal cited the possible motivation behind Ancient Greek games as “purposeful escape”. What makes her thesis different for human beings today if they are escaping from a “broken reality” through digital, gaming advanced from ancient civilization?