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Playing Games Is Hard Work: An Excerpt From Reality Is Broken
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Playing Games Is Hard Work: An Excerpt From Reality Is Broken

January 26, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

And then there's physical work, which makes our hearts beat faster, our lungs pump harder, our glands sweat like crazy. If the work is hard enough, we'll flood our brains with endorphins, the feel-good chemical. But more importantly, whether we're throwing punches in Wii Boxing or jumping around to Dance Dance Revolution, we just enjoy the process of getting ourselves completely worn out.

There's discovery work, which is all about the pleasure of actively investigating unfamiliar objects and spaces. Discovery work helps us feel confident, powerful, and motivated. When we're exploring mysterious 3D environments, like a vast city hidden in the sea in the role-playing shooter game BioShock, or when we're interacting with strange characters, like the fashionable undead teenagers who populate Tokyo in the handheld battle game The World Ends with You, we relish the chance to be curious about anything and everything.

Increasingly in computer and video games today there's teamwork, which emphasizes collaboration, cooperation, and contributions to a larger group.

When we carve out special duties for ourselves in a complex mission like the twenty-five-player team raids in World of Warcraft, or when we're defending our friends' lives in a four-player cooperative game of the comic adventure Castle Crashers, we take great satisfaction in knowing we have a unique and important role to play in a much bigger effort.

Finally, there's creative work. When we do creative work, we get to make meaningful decisions and feel proud of something we've made.

Creative work can take the form of designing our homes and families in the Sims games, or uploading video karaoke performances of ourselves to the SingStar network, or building and managing an online franchise in the Madden NFL games. For every creative effort we make, we feel more capable than when we started.

High-stakes work, busywork, mental work, physical work, discovery work, teamwork, and creative work -- with all this hard work going on in our favorite games, I'm reminded of something the playwright Noël Coward once said: “Work is more fun than fun.”

Sure, this sounds mildly absurd. Work more fun than fun? But when it comes to games, it's undoubtedly true. Games inspired us to tackle tough challenges with optimism, energy and resilience. When we play a good game, we become the hardest working versions of ourselves. Which brings us to our first fix for reality:

Fix #1: Unnecessary Obstacles

Compared to games, reality is too easy. Games challenge us with voluntary obstacles and help us put our personal strengths to better use.

To discover the other 14 fixes for reality, read Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal (Penguin Press).

From REALITY IS BROKEN by Jane McGonigal. Published by arrangement with The Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright (c) Jane McGonigal, 2011.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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