Reality is Broken

Computer games are fulfilling a genuine human need that the real world is currently unable to satisfy. They are rewarding, teaching, and inspiring in a way that reality is not

Why should we waste the power of games on escapist entertainment?

A «mass exodus» to gaming worlds, millions of person-hours lost from society

People underutilizing their skills in the real world and prioritizing games

Cognitive effort, emotional energy, and collective attention lavished on game worlds instead of the real world

Computer games are fulfilling a genuine human need that the real world is currently unable to satisfy

They are rewarding, teaching, and inspiring in a way that reality is not

A sense of accomplishment, heroic purpose, power, community, focus, engagement, victory!

Reality doesn’t motivate us as effectively

Reality isn’t engineered to maximize our potential

Reality wasn’t designed from the bottom up to make us happy

To develop foresight, you need to practice hindsight

Games have been a fundamental part of human civilization for thousands of years

Games for personal and social change

Positive impact games

Social reality games

Serious games

Leveraging the play of the planet

Games designed to improve quality of life, prevent suffering, and create real happiness

Satisfy our hunger to be challenged and rewarded, creative and successful, social and part of something larger than ourselves

CEOs taking game breaks at work

«As for the future, your task is not to see it, but to enable it»

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The way games structure experience:

A goal: a sense of purpose

Rules: limitations that unleash creativity and foster strategic thinking

A feedback system: a promise of an achievable goal, providing motivation to keep playing

Voluntary participation: makes for a safe and pleasurable experience; everyone is playing on the same common ground

«Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles»

– Bernard Suits

Voluntary unnecessary obstacles that challenge us and lets us put our personal strengths to better use

Tetris is a game you are guaranteed to lose, but it’s addictive because of the density of feedback it provides

In computer games, the interactive loop is satisfyingly tight; there’s no gap between your actions and the game’s responses; you can see the changes you make on the game world; the game is extraordinarily attentive to your performance and gets harder when you play well. 

In a good computer game, you are always playing on the edge of your skill level; the state called «flow»

Competition and winning are NOT defining traits of games

Many gamers would rather keep playing than win

The state of being intensely engaged may ultimately be more pleasurable than winning

Finite games and infinite games (James P. Carse)

Gamers want to explore and learn and improve; they’re volunteering for unnecessary hard work—and they genuinely care about the outcome of their effort

There is nothing trivial about playing a good game

Why do unnecessary obstacles make us happy?

Nothing makes us happier than good, hard work

We’ve been taught to think of play as the opposite of work, but nothing could be further from the truth

«The opposite of play isn’t work, it’s depression» – Brian Sutton-Smith

Gameplay is the direct emotional opposite of depression

The hard work we hate is the work we HAVE to do; to make a living, to get ahead, to meet expectations, or because someone told us to

Busywork, mental work, physical work, discovery work, teamwork, creative work

«Work is more fun than fun» — Noël Coward

When we seek out passive entertainment and low-engagement activities, we’re using them as a counterbalance to how stimulated and overwhelmed we feel

eustress (greek)

fiero (italian)

nachos (yiddish) the burning pride we feel when someone we’ve taught or mentored succeeds

The science of happiness (Csíkszentmihályi)

Intense, optimistic engagement with the world around us

«Games are an obvious source of flow, and play is the flow experience par excellence»

The failure of schools [+++] to provide flow is a serious moral issue, one of the most urgent facing humanity

Why should we needlessly spend the majority of our lives in boredom and anxiety?

The field of positive psychology

Hedonic adaption

«We have been conditioned to believe that the wrong things will make us lastingly happy» – Sonja Lyubomirsky

Internal opiates

We crave:

satisfying work

the experience of being successful

social connection

meaning; curiousity, awe, and wonder about things that unfold on epic scales

Blissful productivity; the sense of being deeply immersed in work that produces immediate and obvious results

Compared with games, reality is unproductive

Well-designed work leaves no doubt that progress will be made; it has a guarantee of productivity built in

A clear goal attached to a specific task

Being able to see the fruits of our labour, inspiring a sense of self-worth

The joy of failure in games

Positive failure feedback

Optimism is built in to the medium of games

To truly flourish, we have to be optimistic about our own abilities and opportunities for success

There is no reason to fear failure in games and failure means the fun can keep going

«Fun from games arises out of mastery. It arises out of comprehension. With games, learning is the drug.»

–Raph Koster

Fun will always morph into boredom, once we pass the critical point of being reliably successful

Games as a learning environment

Facebook games: scheduled micro interactions with people you like into your everyday routine

Stronger social connectivity through games

Ambient sociability: the experience of playing alone together

Epic environments and quests

Awe and wonder

Stonehenge, Gobekli Tepe

Human made structures that inspire community

Places of worship

Meaning; taking part in something bigger than ourselves

If we’re forced to do something, or do it halfheartedly, we’re not really participating

If we don’t care how it all turns out, we’re not really participating

If we’re passively waiting it out, we’re not really participating

Alternate reality games

Optimal experience design

«Quest to Learn»: The ideal school doesn’t use games to teach students; it IS a game, from start to finish

Different types of ARGs: life-management, organizational, concept, live event, narrative Leveling up stats IRL, getting points in skills from others like endorsements on linkedin

Being out of control is a fundamentally stressful feeling; games put us back in control, as real gameplay is always by definition voluntarily; it is always an exercise of our own freedom

We have a power to improve our own experience

Happiness hacking / life hacking

Hacking: creatively tinkering with technology and programming

Wikipedia as a crowdsourcing game (MMORPG)

Good game mechanics and community

Gamers’ participation bandwidth

Collective intelligence and the Web

Mass participation in crowd projects

A sustainable engagement economy

The emotional experience itself is the reward

Designing good player investment

Cooperation towards extreme-scale goals

Epic win!

IRL «We don’t have an endless stream of opportunities to do something that matters right now, presented with clear instructions, and finely tuned to our moment-by-moment capabilities.»

Social participation games

The Extraordinaries

HIT: human intelligence tasks

«We can love people when we know what they need»

– Joe Edelman

Citizen Logistics / Groundcrew (?)

«From widespread basic Internet literacy and mobile technology smarts to rapidly expanding Web 2.0 and crowdsourcing know-how, people everywhere are becoming increasingly connected and improving their ability to cooperate, coordinate and create together.»

The Lost Ring Codex


The Long Game

Life is hard, and games make it better.

When we play games, we consume less.