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McGonigal ties video game culture back to the ancient Lydians, as described in Herodotus's works. Through eighteen years of famine and hardship, the Lydians survived using rudimentary games as a way to turn their thoughts away from their hunger. Modern games, McGonigal notes, serve no less of an important role in elevating people from their most primal hungers and in ultimately preparing them to shape the future of humanity. McGonigal uses various video games and 'gamified' real-world initiatives to show the potential of video games to make us happy, positively reinvent reality, and change the world in very real and very meaningful ways. She expresses her heartfelt hope that one day in the next twenty five years, a game developer will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the contributions that he/she makes through the principles of gaming and collaboration.
That being said, McGonigal's examples are in some cases rather odd, like a game that you play in graveyards to 'connect' people back to their dead relatives or another where you go around downtown 'killing others' with kindness by giving out compliments or winking at strangers. The book gives a broad introduction to the world of video games and positive change, but it ignores most of the contentions against video games and instead presents an idealistic, rosy view of where video games are taking humanity. Also, in that a number of the games presented are of McGonigal's own invention, the book seems a bit self-laudatory at times.
Overall, an enjoyable, easy read (if you can get past all of the unnecessary acronyms). It's written sort of like a bunch of blog posts that flow into each other, so each section comes as a bite-size chunk that introduces a particular aspect of gaming culture or evaluates how gaming culture can be applied to everyday reality. Reality is Broken is, admittedly, a bit Pollyanaish at times, and it's by no means a masterful work of literature, but for those engaged in video game design or the futures of digital literacy, this is an empowering work with a lot of good information to distill and apply. There were a couple of instances while reading when I fully glimpsed the import of what McGonigal was saying, and for me those few moments made it all worth it.