Gamification Expert &

Behavioral Designer

Readalong: Reality is Broken, Ch 11 – The Engagement Economy

This continues the Readalong by Erik van Mechelen of Jane McGonigal’s ‘Reality is Broken’ with insights from Yu-kai Chou’s Octalysis framework. For in-depth discussions of this book and others, join Octalysis Prime.

tl;dr More people than ever are online; how can we get some of their participation bandwidth into large-scale projects for good?


McGonigal makes the case that if we divert attention to large-scale projects like Wikipedia, Investigate your MP’s Expenses, FoldIt, and Free Rice, essentially projects for large-scale or global good for an extended period of time (through long-term design), we can collectively make the world a better place.


McGonigal correctly finds potential in success stories like Wikipedia, Investigate your MP’s Expenses, FoldIt, and Free Rice for political activism, scientific problem solving, and fundraising.

She draws attention to the problem of attention. How can we convince people to play a little less World of Warcraft or a little less time on Facebook (both autotelic activities) and a bit more of their participation bandwidth on these crowd-sourced efforts?

Two comments. The first is about Facebook. In 2011, when this book was published, Facebook wasn’t as powerful as it is today. Its algorithms are stronger and more convincing, perhaps more addictive. I’d argue that Facebook is still autotelic. In my personal case, my Facebook feed doesn’t offer that much world-changing interest. Facebook’s advertising system is a lot stronger now, so my feed includes ads I didn’t ask for 🙂

If spending time on Facebook is an increasing waste of time, this actually may work to the benefit of projects competing for “brain cycles and heartshare” and “better or more competitive engagement.”

Even so, there are better distractions online than ever before. In my view, movements toward a more altruistic and productive and well-being approach (like represent the future I want to live in.

What do you think?

What crowd-sourced online initiatives have you participated in this year?

Let me know in the comments or on Octalysis Prime‘s community (paywall).

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