Readalong: Reality is Broken, Ch 8 – Leveling Up in Life

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 Games that add value to life are worth creating.


In this chapter, McGonigal introduces us to games that accompany real life activities, explaining how their inclusion of intrinsic motivation alleviates boredom (JetSetter), stems anxiety (Day in the Clouds), makes us run harder (Nike+), and hang out with friends more in new places (Foursquare).

It is a great survey of the underlying studies and behavioral psychology.


The examples in this chapter won’t surprise anyone reading in 2017, but I was drawn into a reflection on Foursquare, a popular app that is no longer high on the App Store charts.

McGonigal rightly points out that instead of instead of a game that rewards you for what you’re already doing, like Nike+, Foursquare “it’s a game that rewards you for doing new things, and making a better effort to be social.”

Designers will notice a problem here, however. Once I ‘rediscover’ (if I ever forgot) that hanging out with friends is a fun and healthy activity, I can stop using the app. If I take this undesired action (for Foursquare), all I lose is a digital ‘Mayorship’, which, unless you are someone who gets really attached to things that don’t exist, is easy to give let go.

Creating Endgames is one of the most challenging elements of behavior design in any experience.

What do you think?

What games are adding value to your life?

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

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