A Super Better Gameful Life

Jane McGonigal

Her new book, SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient–Powered by the Science of Games (Penguin Books, 2015), seeks to explain in detail the SuperBetter method, which aims to teach how to live and overcome every life obstacle with a gameful mindset. McGonigal defined what “being gameful” means to her back in 2009: “having the positive traits of a gamer” (or a game), such as strong motivation and goal orientation, confidence in one’s own capabilities, enjoying the pursuit of new challenges, perseverance in the face of obstacles, and a passion for learning new skills 1. SuperBetter explains how to bring this mindset to everyday life. Continue Reading

Unified Games

The Classical Unities & Open-World Games

In recent years, the open world philosophy of game design has moved from innovative exception to nearly the norm. The idea of completely fleshed-out spaces that are fully interactive and explorable has gripped the minds of players and developers alike, and literally hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in the pursuit of the biggest, most detailed open-world game possible on current hardware. This development has seemed like a revolution in game design, but it is really just the ultimate realization of the literary and dramatic theories of the unities that have existed since Aristotle. Continue Reading

Video Games for Health

Principles & Strategies for Design and Evaluation by Ivan Leslie Beale

While commentators in the health and technology sectors frequently tout the potential of video games to enhance patient involvement in their own healthcare and to provide avenues for interactive health education, this enthusiasm seems yet to be fully supported by developments in the health or gaming industries. Video games for health are a relatively new genre of ‘serious game’ and, thus, the body of literature dedicated to defining, analyzing, and theorizing them is currently quite limited in both depth and breadth. In Video Games for Health, Ivan Leslie Beale is particularly concerned with this deficit, and he wants to ensure that future approaches to creating media for health management follow rigorous standards that support a commitment to scientific validity. Centrally, Beale asks: how can we employ findings from the more established realm of educational video games in the development of the emergent sphere of video games for health? Because of Beale’s interest in developing this sphere, the text also takes up the broader task of defining the health genre of video game, and, in that respect, it breaks relatively new ground. Continue Reading

Reality Is Broken

Why Games Make Us Better & How They Can Change the World

Reality is Broken has become a bit of a big deal in gaming, both in the academic and popular presses. Ian Bogost wrote that it “is destined to be one of the most influential works about videogames ever published,” and it has become a New York Times Bestseller. McGonigal is writing to a very broad audience – designers, theorists, academics, the public – and so it is a very readable, lucid text. It is divided into fourteen chapters under three main sections – “Why Games Make Us Happy,” Reinventing Reality,” and “How Very Big Games Can Change the World,” which I’ll summarize below. Each chapter is essentially centered around a ludic “fix” for reality, such as the one for Chapter 2: “Emotional Activation: Compared with games, reality is depressing. Games focus our energy, with relentless optimism, on something we’re good at and enjoy” (p. 38)… Continue Reading

Über Other

Mortality, Morality, and the Nazi Zombie

In her 2011 book Reality is Broken (2011), Jane McGonigal argues that videogames can in fact be used for “good:” through harnessing the countless hours gamers spend solving puzzles in videogames, we may be able to solve “real world” problems, such as inequality, sickness and conflict. I really like this idea, and though I’m not sure I quite share all of McGonigal’s optimism, I do think that videogames serve some vital functions – cultural and psychological – outside of particular play experiences… Continue Reading