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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