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Author of the week: Jane McGonigal

In Reality Is Broken, the research director and game designer at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto says we should make many facets of our lives more game-like.

Jane McGonigal may have figured out a way that video games can help solve the world’s problems, said Chris O’Brien in the San Jose Mercury News. A research director and game designer at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, Calif., McGonigal is well known in the gaming world for her work on such projects as World Without Oil, a game that asks players to imagine energy solutions for a post-oil world. “Game developers know better than anyone else how to inspire extreme effort,” says the first-time author. “They know how to facilitate collaboration at previously unimaginable scales.” Each day, for example, the people who play the online game World of Warcraft spend 30 million hours on problem-solving tasks. If similar energy were redirected into a game that challenged people to improve schools, McGonigal says, “we could accomplish really extraordinary things.”

Reality Is Broken, McGoni­gal’s provocative new book, goes even further, said Daniel Terdiman in CNet.com. In it, she argues that we should seek to make many facets of our lives more game-like. Compared with games, “reality feels broken,” she says. “It doesn’t motivate us or inspire us as effectively and reliably as our best games do.” Her solution is to “gamify” the world. “Gamification means taking an ordinary task—running, losing weight—and adding a game layer to it, like points, levels, badges.” Gamification “isn’t about making real life easier,” she says. “It’s about making real life more challenging, in ways that we want.”

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