Guest Book Review & Giveaway: Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal

Do you or  your children spend a lot of time playing video games?  Do you worry about all that time wasted?  Maybe it wasn’t wasted after all..

Please welcome guest reviewer Alan Smith to Books on the Brain!  He’s reviewing Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal as part of its TLC Book Tour.  Alan, take it away!

First, I would like to thank Lisa for the opportunity to guest post on her blog, it is a great honor to do so.

According to a rough estimate by Jane McGonigal in her new book Reality is Broken, if you were to take the sum of the total hours that humans have spent playing World of Warcraft, it would be approximately 50 billion collective hours or 5.93 million years (which also happens to be approximately the same amount of time that humans have been walking upright).

So why do many people play video games so often?  What can we learn from video games to make reality a better place? Are there ways that we could put the real world skills that the millions of game have obtained by playing games players to good use?  All three of these topics are addressed in the book.

I have been a gamer for most of my life.  One of my earliest memories was sitting at my parent’s Apple II computer with a green monochromatic screen playing Conan: Hall of Volta as a kindergartener.  More recently, I have currently logged over 2400 hours playing Guild Wars (please note that many of these hours have been logged while I was still logged into the game, but not actually playing). Despite enjoying my time spent playing video games, I have always had a nagging sense that my video game playing has been largely a waste of time.

In addition to a long time gamer I have recently been trying to look at my life to see how I can use my talents and skills to benefit other people. I was very interested in the notion that the skills I have acquired by playing video games may be used to help others.  Because of this, I had a very optimistic outlook on what this book might hold.

Games seem to fulfill some basic need that we are not obtaining in reality, whether it be the elation of overcoming a difficult and otherwise unnecessary obstacle, permitting a gamer to accomplish more satisfying work, immersing oneself on an epic scale, or a list of other such basic needs.  Games in general help us to fulfill those needs in our lives and as such, may help us to enjoy reality more.

The author then discusses that we have millions of people playing video games throughout the world.  This is possibly a huge and relatively untapped resource that the world has.  What if we were able to tap into a gamer’s desire to play games to help the common good of society?  Many people are already doing this.  The author mentions http://www.freerice.com as one such website.  Through the collective efforts of gamers and the sponsors, http://www.freerice.com has donated almost 80 billion grains of rice to the UN World Food Programme. I would urge you to play http://www.freerice.com next time you would otherwise play solitaire or some other game pre-installed on the computer to pass a few minutes.

The last section of the book looks into how we can use the brains of gamers and the abilities that they have gained from playing games, to try and solve the world’s problems.  Not surprising, there are people already doing this too.  A few games have set out to try and see how gamers would react to certain world catastrophes and other such events, in order to collaborate and figure out possible strategies for either averting or solving these worldwide problems.

My one critique of the book would be that many of the world changing games that are mentioned in this book have long since ended and while you can still read about these games online, it is not the same as actually playing them.  However, with that said I am still interested in researching any future games which may come up in order that I may participate in them.

Author Jane McGonigal

Personally, the big take away from this portion of the book was that I do not look at my real world daily achievements the way that I look at the achievements I have in my games.  Since starting to read this book, I have tried to look at each assignment I finish at work, or the dinner I make or the myriad of other daily accomplishments as an achievement in and of itself.  While that may not be the main thrust of the book, it has brought a lot more happiness into my life and I am grateful for that.

In summary, your video game playing has not been a waste of time, maybe an untapped resource, but not a waste of time.  It would be better to think of the time you’ve spent playing the video games as training you for games which have the potential to change the world.  Now is an exciting time as we may be able to collectively put our gaming skills to good use.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has played video games at all, or to anyone who is looking at trying to change the world (I think almost everyone probably falls into either one or both of these categories).

Alan Smith is married to the brilliantly talented Danielle aka The1stdaughter at There’s A Book and has two crazy kiddos, Turkeybird and Littlebug. When he’s not chasing them around or curtailing his wife’s incessant need to “be involved” in everything possible, he loves playing basketball, serving at his church, and playing online games. Oh and the rest of the time, he’s an attorney for a small banking law firm on the Central Coast of California.

To enter the giveaway for Reality is Broken, simply leave a comment on this post by Wednesday, Feb. 2nd.  The giveaway is limited to US/Canada only (sorry).

For more information on Jane McGonigal and Reality is Broken, visit www.realityisbroken.com.

For more thoughts on Reality is Broken, check out the other blogs on the tour:

Tuesday, January 18th:  GeekMom
Wednesday, January 19th:  Boarding in My Forties
Friday, January 21st:  Shezcrafti
Tuesday, January 25th:  Nerds in Babeland
Wednesday, January 26th:  Books on the Brain
Thursday, January 27th:  Belle Renee
Monday, January 31st:  Reading Through Life
Tuesday, February 1st:  In the Next Room
Wednesday, February 2nd:  Total Fan Girl
Wednesday, February 2nd:  Juggling Life
Thursday, February 3rd:  Po(sey) Sessions
Friday, February 4th:  GeekDad
Monday, February 7th:  Mind of Mr. X
Wednesday, February 9th:  Book Dads
Date TBD:  Gaming Angels
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15 Responses

  1. Very nice guest post! My son is an extreme gamer, and I am glad to hear that all the time he spends on games should not be thought of as wasted. I have heard that playing games increases hand eye coordination and problem solving skills, and to hear there are even more benefits does my mother’s heart good. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  2. My husband has always asserted that people who grow up playing video games also develop important skills- not just computer use but problem-solving, logic, etc- and they rarely end up having trouble finding a job!

  3. My son is a huge gamer, and while I force balance on him with other extracurricular activities, it is his passion. It drives me crazy sometimes, BUT I do see benefits, including problem solving, learning about different parts of the world, about consequences of actions, etc. His vocabulary astonishes me. So I am anxious to read this. It would be nice to know not all is lost with this kid!

  4. My kids are gamers. WOW and now MindCraft are favorites. It’s good to know that gamers do learn some skills while playing. I have always thought this was the case, and have been glad to have them at home as well. Another aspect to these games is that they can often play with others online, so they may get some social interaction (and maybe learn teamwork skills) as well.

  5. Great review, Alan. Much to my dismay, my son enjoys video games, so he should probably read this book.

  6. Thanks, Alan, for the terrific review and for being on the tour! And thanks to everyone who commented. I love the idea of harnessing all that time and brain power kids/people spend on games and using it for something good!

    I completely forgot to include that there’s a giveaway for this book, so FYI you’re all entered. Will pick a winner one week from today- Wed., Feb. 2nd.

  7. Thanks for your interesting take on the book, Alan. I was one of the reviewers on the tour also and found the book fascinating but I didn’t have the advantage of being a gamer myself.

  8. (P.S. Thanks for entering me in this giveaway. I will add this to my blog’s sidebar. Thanks!)

  9. Thanks for this nice book review. I enjoyed this guest post. I read book reviews on different sites, I find your review very genuine and orignal.

  10. Great post! I always knew my old Nintendo playing habits (okay, so I dated myself now) were more educational than time wasting. No really! Tetris totally worked because I can make things fit when it looks like all hope is lost (and no that’s not describing my bookcase…ahem). Thanks for sharing a look at the other side of gaming!

    (not an entry)

  11. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Robyn and Robyn, Danielle Smith. Danielle Smith said: Guess what? My fab hubby has his first ever #review posted @ Books on the Brain!!! Go show the love! REALITY IS BROKEN: http://bit.ly/gBCoCr [...]

  12. What an interesting topic! I would love to read this book

  13. This is a great review. I’ve heard about this book and now I’ll definitely have to put it on my to-read list (and pass on the recommendation to my brother the gamer too, lol). Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

  14. Thanks for all the positive comments about the post, it was my first, so I was a little nervous.

    My parents got me into gaming when I was very young due to my horrible hand eye coordination. I feel that it has helped me a lot with not only that, but being able to think quickly on my feet. And now with the addition of Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOs for short), I have been able to learn to work together with many people and adopt to a changing situation more quickly.

    The idea that we could harness the game playing ability of millions for the good of mankind is what had initially drawn me to the book. I am now interested in trying to find ways to help others through game play.

    Thanks again all the great comments and keep them coming.

  15. I read and reviewed this one too and found it really refreshing to hear a positive take on the whole gaming thing. And I was comforted to know that my son’s gaming isn’t going to warp him and might even help him and the rest of us someday!

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