Reading Response #7: Jane McGonigal

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“gameplay is the direct emotional opposite of depression” (McGonigal, 28)

In Reality is Broken Jane McGonigal doesn’t offer any concrete or foolproof blueprints on how to transform lessons learned through studying how gamers play video games into ‘real-world’ potential, but that shouldn’t take away from the persuasiveness of her arguments.  “When we’re in a concentrated state of optimistic engagement, it suddenly becomes biologically more possible for us to think positive thoughts, to make social connections, and to build personal strengths” (McGonigal, 28).  This seems to be one of the only real oppositions to her writings in my mind (most others are in the realm of just being idiotic due to lack of gaming knowledge or experience).

What opponents of McGonigal’s thinking should realize is that there are always theorists who lead the way in any new technological or social change, and that these theorists are neither 100% right nor 100% responsible for making their theories a reality.  In this regard McGonigal does a wonderful job of creating a logical chain of predictions for the integration of gaming and its ‘real-world’ implications.  “What a boost to global net happiness it would be if we could positively activate the minds and bodies of hundreds of millions of people by offering them better hard work” (McGonigal, 29).

In addition to her ideas about the future of gaming, she offers up some intriguing psychological scientific evidence that supports her claims. “In 1975, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi published a groundbreaking scientific study called Beyond Boredom and Anxiety.  The focus of the study was a specific kind of happiness that Csikszentmihalyi named flow: “the satisfying, exhilarating feeling of creative accomplishment and heightened functioning”” (McGonigal, 35).  In essence, she is citing scientific proof that our brains function at a more efficient level of usable output when we are engaged in something we are interested in and have a stake it, whether its a virtual stake of only having one life left in a game or something in the real world makes no difference to our brains.   We remain in this state of ‘flow’ because we are not only enjoying ourselves, but because we feel like what we are doing matters.  Agency is king.  “Csikszentmihalyi’s research showed that flow was most reliably and most efficiently produced by the specific combination of self-chosen goals, personally optimized obstacles, and continuous feedback that make up the essential structure of gameplay” (McGonigal, 36).    

 

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