Reality Is Broken

Reality is broken,” says Jane McGonigal, “and we need to make it work more like a game.” The longer I work on WordUp, the deeper I feel that she is right. When I started the project that is now called Stranded on Babel, I didn’t fully understand the importance of what I was doing: merging a game with reality.

Jane McGonigal, as introduced on her website, has a PhD in Performance Studies from UC Berkeley and “…is a world-renowned designer of alternate reality games — or, games that are designed to improve real lives and solve real problems.”

I have watched her video Gaming Can Make a Better World four times, and each time her message sunk deeper. I’ve thought a lot about the monotony in the world and how to improve jobs and specific fields of study through games. The two questions that consume my mind are:

  1. which activity could be adopted as gameplay to produce the most social impact?
  2. for which currently-mundane activity would creating a high-quality game be most feasible?

To me, the answer I have been able to come up with to both of these questions is the same: language learning. I will explain in future posts.

Paraphrasing the Video

To paraphrase the video, typical young people in developed countries spend 10,000 hours gaming by the time they’re 21 years old. Interestingly, 10,080 hours is how long they spend in school from 5th grade to high school graduation. if you never miss a class. McGonigal calls what’s going on a ”parallel track of education.” People are learning as much about how to be good gamers as they are learning everything else. Malcolm Gladwell has coined the term, “virtuoso”, as defining an expert of a skill after 10,000 hours of high-concentration practice. McGonigal (loosely) considers today’s young generation to be an entire generation of “virtuoso gamers.”

According to McGonigal, these “virtuosos” have four key skills:

(1) Urgent optimism- “the desire to act immediately with the belief of a reasonable hope of success.”

(2) Social fabric- “gamers are weavers of a tight social fabric… Playing games together builds bonds, trust, and cooperation.”

(3) Blissful productivity- “we’re happier when we’re working hard than when we are relaxing or hanging out. Gamers are willing to work all the time if given the right work.”

(4) Epic Meaning- “gamers love to be attached to awe-inspiring missions.”

In essence, “gamers are super-empowered hopeful individuals. They’re individually capable of changing the world.”

The only problem

“The only problem is that they believe they’re capable of changing virtual worlds, not the real world.” Bottom line: “Reality is broken,” says Jane McGonigal, “and we need to make it work more like a game.”

Expect an explanation from me in future posts about why I consider language learning to be the most socially-beneficial and feasible human activity to turn into a game.

-Jordan Clive, Founder.

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