Readalong: Reality is Broken, Ch 5 – Stronger Social Connectivity

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 Gamers aren’t gaming alone. 


Stronger social connectivity was first ballooned by Facebook games like Lexulous, then Farmville, which combined Lexulous’s ease of gameplay and social connectivity with the blissful productivity of World of Warcraft.

According to Eric Weiner, author of The Geography of bliss:

Our happiness is completely and utterly intertwined with other people: family and friends and neighbors….Happiness is not a noun or verb. It’s a conjunction. Connective tissue.

Students of Yu-kai’s Octalysis framework will recognize this connective tissue as Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness.

From Yu-kai’s Actionable Gamification:

Social Influence and Relatedness is the fifth core drive within my Gamification Framework Octalysis, which is related to activities inspired by what other people think, do, or say. This Core Drive is the engine behind themes like mentorship, competition, envy, group quests, social treasures and companionship.

This Core Drive also includes the “Relatedness” part, which deals with things like attachment to emotional associations and the feeling of nostalgia. For instance, if you see a product that reminds you of your childhood, you have a higher chance of buying that product. Similarly if you meet someone from your hometown, you would also be more inclined to sign up a deal with this person.


McGonigal makes some solid comments about why Farmville was successful and how it not only used Core Drive 5, but also incorporated asynchronous behaviors and mechanics like Gifting to provide boosts of CD7, too.

Fix #5: Stronger Social Connectivity

“Compared with games, reality is disconnected. Games build stronger social bonds and lead to more active social networks. The more time we spend interacting within our social networks, the more likely we are to generate a subset of positive emotions knowns as “prosocial emotions”.

I’m quite taken to this concept of prosocial emotions, and agree with McGonigal’s next discussions of happy embarrassment and vicarious pride.

In particular, I’m quite interested by Naches, a Yiddish word for “the bursting of pride we feel when someone we’ve taught or mentored succeeds, ranked just below surprise and fiero.”

Yu-kai has discussed mentorship in OP Leadership, but also as a game technique within Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness. Paul Ekman’s research and anecdotes from fathers teaching mothers how to play Jonathan Blow’s “notoriously difficult puzzle game”, Braid, are convincing evidence of McGonigal’s argument.

McGonigal’s final pages on ambient sociability are quite intriguing. She tries to answer the question, Why do players of World of Warcraft spend on average 70% of their time on individual missions when there are hundreds of thousands of players online with them? 

The answer: Even when we are doing something solitary, it feels good to know others are doing the same.

I felt this same emotion while studying for exams or while writing my novel or while participating in Nanowrimo: I could persist in part because I knew others were doing the same.

What do you think?

Do you play games with friends? How often? Have you ever tried to convince people to play a game with you? Have you ever taught someone a new game?

What do you think?

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

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