The Bookbyte Blog
Bookbyte Reads: The World Needs More Games
The following was written by our own Ben Zoon, a talented Bookbyte employee and avid reader.
The average American spends 13 hours a week playing video games. What great things might we achieve if all that collective time was directed toward something productive? But before we discount the value of video games, we must ask ourselves what makes them so incredibly engaging and captivating.
Professional game designer Jane McGonigal explores these questions in her book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. One of her central arguments is that we love video games because they are simply more stimulating than real life. They provide well-defined and achievable goals, elaborate feedback systems to measure our progress, and easy mechanisms to share our achievements. Video games are designed to provide an experience of what McGonigal calls "blissful productivity," in which people actually enjoy working at the limits of their ability for long periods of time.
Wouldn't it be awesome if we could harness that blissful productivity in real life? McGonigal shows that by adding better systems for goal making, results tracking, and social participation, people can be motivated to accomplish great things together in real life just as they do in video games. At Bookbyte, we are seeing firsthand the success of this idea. As part of our Lifebyte health and fitness program, employees were given wristbands that track the number of steps taken each day. The results are uploaded to the Internet, where we can track our progress and compare our results to those of coworkers. With the addition of accountability partners and prizes for the completion of goals, employees are more motivated than ever to get out and exercise.
This book has certainly convinced me of the value of "gamification" in contexts well outside just video games. All the research game designers have done on how to make games highly addictive can be leveraged to make real-life highly addictive as well. Maybe in the future we will only feel guilty for not playing games all day.