Friday, July 24, 2015

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Review: Reality Is Broken

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the WorldReality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first heard about Jane McGonigal in graduate school, during my Digital Humanities class when we were all instructed to follow her, Ian Bogost, and other--shall we say--digital humanitarians. I enjoyed her TED Talk and the 140 character bursts of relentless optimism, but it wasn’t until a few years later that Reality is Broken crossed my path at the library. I figured it would be worth a look.

Overall, I found it a very engaging read. I wouldn’t consider myself a ‘gamer’ though I do have a modest boardgame collection. But her discussion of what makes games so addictive offers a lot of insight into many of the questions I’ve asked myself lately. How can I be a better version of myself? Get that promotion? Feel happier? Behave more kindly?

But I think the most important question I had was, what would it mean if we could approach every day with a sense of play? Could it help mitigate the fear of failure, free us to take risks, make hard work less arduous. Working in Early Literacy I very often heard the phrase “Play is a child’s work.” I’d push back and say “No.” Learning through play doesn’t stop at age five. We can all benefit enjoying our work and seeing the impact we have on the world, like a toddler pushing over a stack of blocks, because being able to say ‘I did it’ activates the reward circuitry of their brain. Games just happen to be better at giving that same kind of real-time feedback than most of the real-world.

Unfortunately, being published in 2011, it seems that many of what I thought were the coolest games that McGonigal mentioned have fallen by the wayside. (My metric for determining this is, as always, if I can’t find it with a quick Google search it must not be relevant.) The Groundcrew website listed in the back of the book seems to be broken, and the one for Cruel 2 B Kind is just not a pleasure to visit. However, I have been playing Superbetter and though it certainly has its kinks I do feel like I’m taking small steps to be that better version of me. Though I don’t log in everyday, I remember the little tidbits of information when I need a little ‘power up’ from day to day. As she points out, taking small steps toward an achievable goal helps you feel more fulfilled, hopeful, even ‘super-empowered.’

I think the things I enjoyed most were her discussion of transitory public sociality--which was something I had noticed but never been able to put a name to before--and the notion of putting the processing power of a million moms playing Candy Crush to work on real world problems. The World Without Oil game was particularly interesting to me. Personally, I’d like to believe that if the world were in crisis humanity would be able to come together toward a common solution. I don’t know that gamification is the answer to the world’s problems, but it seems we learn better and do more productive work when we’re having fun. So if looking at problems to be solved, or tasks to be completed, and even teamwork and collaboration as a kind of play makes them more fun, it certainly couldn’t hurt!

This GIF is really becoming more and more relevant to my life every day....

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Every Hero Has a Story Summer Reading Kick-Off

Summer Reading Club is in full swing; a few weeks ago we had our Kick-Off programs with many different games and crafts for our young and very adorable superheroes.  Three cheers for the League of Iron Librarians!