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Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World | [Jane McGonigal]

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

In today’s society, games are fulfilling real human needs in ways that reality is not. Hundreds of millions of people globally - 174 million in the United States alone - regularly inhabit game worlds because they provide the rewards, stimulating challenges and epic victories that are so often lacking in the real world. Jane McGonigal argues that we need to figure out how to make the real world—our homes, our businesses and our communities—engage us in the way that games do.
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Publisher's Summary

In today’s society, games are fulfilling real human needs in ways that reality is not. Hundreds of millions of people globally — 174 million in the United States alone — regularly inhabit game worlds because they provide the rewards, stimulating challenges, and epic victories that are so often lacking in the real world. Instead of futile handwringing about this exodus from reality, world-renowned game designer Jane McGonigal argues that we need to figure out how to make the real world—our homes, our businesses and our communities—engage us in the way that games do.

Drawing on positive psychology and cognitive science, McGonigal reveals how game designers have hit on core truths about what makes us happy, from social connection to having satisfying work to do. Game designers intuitively understand how to optimize human experience. Reality is Broken shows that games can teach us essential lessons about mass collaboration, creating emotional incentives, and increasing engagement that will be relevant to everyone.

©2011 Jane McGonigal (P)2011 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

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  •  
    Cary 05-30-14
    Cary 05-30-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Unsubstantiated musings from a tourist"
    What would have made Reality Is Broken better?

    The biggest problem with this book is the author fails to provide any kind of meaningful evidence for the assertions she is making or just outright makes claims based off her personal subjective experience (“I saw this group of images on tumblr and the impression I got was …”) that have no business being in a book that is trying to communicate high level concepts. Occasionally a study is mentioned but the logic connecting the study and whatever point the author is trying to make feel shallow at best. I have no problem taking in an opposing view with proper evidence and letting it digest in my brain but I constantly found myself asking very obvious questions to the author’s points that were never answered or were passively dismissed. In the end I’ve seen reddit posts that have better citation.

    There is also the tendency to confuse the benefits of sports games (or general dice/card games) with video games. These things are all different mediums and the benefits of one might translate to the others but the author takes the benefits for granted without trying to show why the benefits of team sports translates to video games; there is just an assumption that they do and she goes right the implications of those imagined benefits.


    What was most disappointing about Jane McGonigal’s story?

    One of the key issues is the author is what I call a “tourist”. This is someone who comes into a hobbyist field, looks around for a bit and then proceeds to make statements that can sound reasonable if you are on the outside but sound totally absurd if you take part in the hobby. I am not talking down on tourists, everyone likes to dabble here and there, but if you are going to write a book on a topic then you should have a better understanding of the subject matter. The author makes absurd statements like “Rock Band is one of the most popular tournament video games”. Being a tourist is one thing but totally missing EVO, The International, Dreamhack, MLG or the OGN/GSL stuff is just not paying attention (I don’t think LoL really started picking up steam until 2012, when this book was published, so I’ll give her a pass on missing that). An equally bizarre assertion was also made that raiding in WoW takes more skill than playing CS competitively (top kek). This would be like saying chess players are more athletic than sprinters because the brain of a chess player burns more calories over a chess game than a sprinter will burn during a 400 yard dash. There is an implicit 'all other things being equal' in almost all of the author's statements that makes no sense in the context of what she is trying to communicate. Then she proceeds to use, and try to explain, the word “pwn”. Have you ever heard someone in their 50s use a word that stopped being a relevant social meme 10 years ago? /cringe

    Again, my problem with the book isn’t the fact that the author hasn’t been playing video games for 25 years like I have or isn’t as immersed in gaming culture as I am, my problem is that she is drawing conclusions about gaming and gamers without having a good understanding of either and is missing out on key experiences that core gamers share and some of these experiences invalidate the author's thesis. A big one is gamer regret or ‘post-game depression’. This is mentioned, once, and then immediately dismissed like it doesn't matter. Well it does matter when you are writing a book about how video game logic makes everything better. Every gamer knows gamer regret. It’s that huge empty feeling you get after beating a game or staring at your MMO character knowing that there is nothing left to do and realizing that it was all for nothing because in the end you didn’t actually gain anything from the experience. It is a crushing feeling. The cause of this is in how the brain’s reward center works and the difference between the feeling of something leading to fulfillment and actual fulfillment. There is a great book called The Willpower Instinct that gives a good summery this concept if you are interested, the tl;dr version is that dopamine focuses the brain on what has value in the environment (this process is called RAS) with the intention of having the body take action towards getting whatever is being focused on (there is an apple tree across the river, I don’t want to cross the river because I might die but the dopamine tells me that I’ll be fulfilled if I eat the apples so I take the risk to get the reward). Games are dopamine machines, constantly tempting the player with fulfillment without actually giving anything. When the illusion is shattered because the game is over or no further progression is possible, you crossed the river but you never got the tasty apple. The author ignores this concept in its entirety, most likely because doing so would shatter the thesis that video games represent a better way to live your life.

    There is also a lot of ‘causation vs correlation’ confusion. The lack of critical thinking behind the ideas in this book is just annoying.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    The book does make some good points about goal setting but it is nothing that Napoleon Hill or Tony Robbins haven’t made many times before.


    Any additional comments?

    Ultimately games are fast paced and highly stimulating. Real life doesn’t work this way. Exciting ideas quickly turn stale in the face of months of slower paced work to see their execution. You can’t keep real life constantly stimulating you. Progress in life is slow and often boring, even for topics that are subjectively interesting. This is such an obvious fact to anyone that has taken the time to master anything but the author, being a tourist, totally ignores this reality to the point where some of her interesting ideas fall flat due to the shallowness of their surroundings. Learning any skill to mastery takes hours and days and years of tedious practice and the concept that this can be bypassed by the shifting of mentality is just the classic “get rich quick” scheme repackaged. Charlatans always sell it and suckers always buy-in.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alexandra Ardmore, PA, United States 04-11-11
    Alexandra Ardmore, PA, United States 04-11-11 Member Since 2002
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    "Interesting but not balanced"

    The first half of this book is a really interesting discussion of games and their psychology, what this reveals about the way we interact with our world, and a trenchant argument that at the very least, games are not the giant mind-suck you might think they are. However, the author gives a decidedly one-sided take - she's a game designer, not a social critic - and she barely addresses some of the thornier questions about games, such as their addictive nature, whether they alter attention spans, etc.

    The second of the half of the book was not as good as the first half - it is more or less an extended description of the various projects the author has worked on. Not uninteresting, but not exactly worth a few hours of listening.

    Also, the narration was certainly not bad, but personally, it sounded to me like a sophomore doing a research report. Not enough to not enjoy the book, but you might want to listen to the sample before you spend a credit.

    Those minor points aside, If you have a significant other who spends serious time with Halo, if you have kids who are sucked into Club Penguin and you wonder why - this is a book well worth your time.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DANIEL SCHNAIDER Tel-Aviv, Israel 05-19-15
    DANIEL SCHNAIDER Tel-Aviv, Israel 05-19-15 Member Since 2015
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    "A must read book. Jane nailed it"

    Jane create intrinsic value in every paragraph. it doesn't matter what you do, or what you wanna be, you will enjoy this book and learn a lot.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary S. Sachs Lincoln, MA, US 05-19-15
    Gary S. Sachs Lincoln, MA, US 05-19-15 Member Since 2005
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    "Our psyches are shaped by the games we play"

    The impact of games on the people and communities that play them persists beyond the boundaries of the game. The author uses her great knowledge of gameification to introduce listeners to the idea of using games as an inexpensive remedy to personal and social problems. The excellent narration made this an enjoyable listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Olivia 04-06-15
    Olivia 04-06-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Overall Good, Dry Ending"

    Truly a book for anyone planning on living past the current year.
    Very interesting. Fun to listen to.
    Gets progressively drier after the first section, but that wasn't unexpected.
    The meat of what she is trying to say is found there.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Caroline Arlington, VA, United States 02-01-15
    Caroline Arlington, VA, United States 02-01-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Interestin read - got turned down for book group.."
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    I would have Jane discuss not just projects she's involved in - I thought the book was well written and showed a breadth and depth, but I started to get tired of hearing about her projects, and would've liked to hear more about projects and games that inspired her (she did talk about some - but,it seemed like deeper into the book - it got to be increasingly focused on her work).


    Any additional comments?

    I suggested this for a book group and got categorically turned down because 'video games will never be good for the individual or society' - I found the topic interesting and went for it on my own and I feel like the book group really missed out. For one thing - it's not just video games that get discussed - and for another - I found the ideas discussed really interesting and walked away wanting to play more games, video, card and board varieties - in my own household - rather than watching tv together.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Divo Maddie 01-08-15
    Divo Maddie 01-08-15
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    "Game In Real Life"

    Fascinating game theory applied to improving our everyday lives. Make any task better by making it a game. Harness the power of the masses to accomplish meaningful goals.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debby 07-30-13
    Debby 07-30-13

    I am an energetic wife, mother and grandmother with a busy life and tired eyes. I love being able to listen to books while doing chores, etc.

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    "Very intriguing!"

    I loved this book so much that I ordered it in ebook format for my daughter who lives in Minnesota. There is so much great information in here I wanted her to be able to highlight and mark passages.

    If we could implement a few of the things she suggests here it would transform school and work for many of us.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Hoboken, NJ, United States 03-18-13
    Robert Hoboken, NJ, United States 03-18-13
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    "Good info, but hard to get through"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    It was too long. This book could have been abridged without losing much


    Would you ever listen to anything by Jane McGonigal again?

    Probably not, though you never know. Though I think she did a good job researching the role games had and continue to have in society, I think some directions she went were a little too bizarre for what I had in mind.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Julia Whelan?

    I don't choose books based on who narrates them.


    Do you think Reality Is Broken needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    No. Too long as it is.


    Any additional comments?

    This book took me a long time to get through. It wasn't that it was difficult. It was just a little creepy in some ways (making a game out of visiting cemeteries, trying to pass off participation in multi-player shoot-em-up games as being involved in something bigger than oneself, etc...) There was a lot of research to back up her themes, though some of it sounded superfluous. I was looking for a book about gaming and business. There is good content in this regard, but there was too much 'gaming will save the world' kind of themes. I'll need to get another book that sticks to gaming and business.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric Round Rock, TX, United States 02-26-13
    Eric Round Rock, TX, United States 02-26-13 Member Since 2011
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    "I loved the concept"
    What did you love best about Reality Is Broken?

    I am a huge gamer. I'm also the Director of Education at a small private school for troubled teen boys. The ideas and concepts presented in this book resonated deeply with me. I'm so interested in this, I started a Master's Program at Texas A&M Commerce on Global eLearning. The ideas presented in this book are at the leading edge of education today. It is a fantastic read!


    What does Julia Whelan bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Julia Whelan's reading style and approach lent itself very well to this book. Her tone is lively and excited. Her enthusiasm for the topic is apparent though out.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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