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Jane McGonigal

Reality is broken

You may think of playing games - in particular computer games - as a bit of entertainment at best, and at worst an addictive time waster. Jane McGonigal doesn't agree. In Reality is broken: why games make us better and how they can change the world she argues that games can help with real world problems and improve our day-to-day living

The book starts with a history of gaming, and moves on to the benefits games can bring, such as encouraging players to exercise and to get out and meet people. 'Day in the Cloud' aims to make air travel enjoyable rather than an ordeal, while 'Ghosts of a Chance' helps people to get more out of their visit to a museum. The last part of the book looks at games which help people to understand the world's problems and to contribute towards a solution. Throughout the book there are 'Fixes' -ways in which games can improve on reality.

I have to say that the book wasn't quite what I expected. I felt that McGonigal overstates the benefits of games - sometimes it is just a time waster. I was looking for ways in which work and other activities can be made easier by using gaming technology, so I would have liked a whole chapter on the Quest to Learn school in New York rather than just a few pages. I felt that the novelty of games like Chore wars - which encourages people to do household chores - would soon wear off. But I thought that the 'world changing' games were interesting, even if they're still in their early stages. Despite my reservations, in the end I felt that the book has enough useful ideas on how games can improve reality to make it worth reading.