Readalong for “Reality is Broken”: Chapter 1, What Exactly Is a Game?

tl;dr Embrace high stakes work and instead of telling yourself this isn’t a game, say this could be a game. 


McGonigal makes the point that gamers want to play games (and not “game” them) and uses the 4 traits of a game to establish some ground rules for the rest of her book.


Gaming is part of our lexicon. “Gaming the system” or “You’d better start playing the game” are part of everyday speech.

This statement leads McGonigal into a discussion of what a game is…a game has:

  1. goal players will work to achieve
  2. rules providing limitations
  3. feedback system giving player progress
  4. voluntary participation

“This definition may surprise you for what it lacks: interactivity, graphics, narrative, rewards, competition, virtual environments, or the idea of “winning” — all traits we often think of when it comes to games today. True, these are common features of many games, but they are not defining features.”

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Readalong for Reality is Broken: Introduction

This readalong is hosted by Erik van Mechelen, written in the context of the Octalysis framework. Each week in Octalysis Prime, members have the opportunity to meet and discuss this book and other great work in the gamification space. 

TL;DR Games and gameful design at scale can change the real world for the better.


“[Games] are clues to the future. And their serious cultivation now is perhaps our only salvation.”

-Bernard Suits, philosopher

“I see a hurricane coming…The exodus of these people from the real world, from our normal daily life, will create a change in social climate that makes global marking look like a tempest in a teacup.”

-Edward Castronova, Exodus to the Virtual World

(Note: Reality is Broken was published in 2011)

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Octalysis Prime and Lifestyle Inertia Design

This post is written by Mike Finney from He is also an active member of Octalysis Prime. 

Applying Octalysis

Octalysis. It’s fantastic! It’s actionable! As Major-General Stanley might say, Octalysis is the very model of a modern major framework.

Although impressive and quite understandable, how can we take this understanding of human motivation and increase our personal productivity? Octalysis Prime‘s Lifestyle Inertia Design (LID) to the rescue!

If you’re an Octalysis Prime member like these wonderful people, you can access the LID videos. The videos are a treasure chest that’s hidden inside of the Productivity area. While being entertained, you can get the knowledge straight from Yu-kai Chou’s lips to your ears!

If you’re not yet an Octalysis Prime member, some of that knowledge is here in this article. However, what’s shared here is a mere shadow of what is to come when you join.

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Substituting a Hard Question for an Easier One: Daniel Kahneman’s ‘Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow’

This article is written by Erik van Mechelen in “conversation” with Yu-kai Chou and Daniel Kahneman. 

Substituting for Easier Questions

Do you like Yu-kai’s glasses? You might substitute an easier question, “Do I like Yu-kai?” then quickly answer “Yes I like your glasses” and move on with your day.

In the introduction to Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow, Kahneman describes the process by which we trade hard questions for cognitively easier ones, a common behavioral and cognitive process.

On page 12, Kahneman describes a Chief Investment Officer invests tens of millions of dollars in Ford, because he goes to an automotive show, and is was impressed with the cars. “He likes the cars, he likes the company, and he likes the idea of owning its stock. From what we know about the accuracy of stock picking, it is reasonable to believe that he did not know what he was doing” because the one question should be “Is the stock currently underpriced.”

But this is where Yu-kai disagrees:

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7 Types of Leaders based on Vision, Execution, and Empathy

This article is written by Erik van Mechelen, based on the Octalysis framework by Yu-kai Chou and lessons from Octalysis Prime, a mentorship journey with Yu-kai Chou.

So you want to be an effective leader. Maybe even a great one. It is a good thought, a great feeling.

As a leader, you have the chance to inspire, direct, and support people to team and individual accomplishments, to make society and the world better through those people.

These statements might feel to you too grandiose. But we know from Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling, that having a Why will drive you to become a stronger leader.

This article will briefly touch on how to learn and train yourself to be an OP leader, the convergence of a leader with Vision, Execution, and Empathy.

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