Written by Jane McGonigal

Reality is Broken refers to how the world we live in is not designed to provide us the kinds of rewards that lead to happier lives. McGonigal makes a case for how game designers got it right and that introducing gaming mechanics into the real world would make it a better place for us all. Filled with examples, case studies, and citations McGonigal describes a world where games motivate us to compliment strangers, do our chores, and connect us with more people than we might otherwise.

Written in the early days of massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG or MMO for short) my favorite game, World of Warcraft, is featured prominently. The WoW designers, as it commonly referred to as in the gamer community, created many different incentives to keep players coming back for more. Quests, daily achievements, hidden games within the game, guilds to encourage social interactions, and game-wide events to build community.

Parallels are drawn between the game mechanics that keep people playing and similar mechanics that encourage people to take actions they feel meaningful. Take for example the game The Extraordinaries; a game that encourages people to be extraordinary in the space of two minutes. It offers real world quests that help save the world. Each player can choose their own mission. Your mission might be to locate and identify secret objects such as life saving defibrillators that will then be shared with emergency response teams.

Why Would You Read This Book?

Pick up Reality is Broken to get an insight into how games can improve your sense of happiness and fulfillment. The many examples provided in the book offer something for everyone. The book had me thinking of how I might employ quests and achievements gaming concepts in my everyday life. I especially liked the description of turning the work of doing chores into a competition. While the creativity had me engaged the writing style reminded me of a text book or white paper; it was dry reading. It will keep your firmly in your thinking throughout the book.

Garrett’s Holistic Scale

I score each book review on a four axis, 0 – 5 point scale that measures how deep a book explores physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual concepts. Use these scales to find a book that explores concepts you are most interested in reading.