Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 (and sometimes Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory) at York University, Canada

Reality Is Broken

In her book “Reality is Broken”, McGonigal attempts to merge worlds of positive psychology and game design to help promote a system of change within the everyday lives of human beings-literally, McGonigal wants to change the world to a more positive atmosphere (encouraging social psychological change) within the building blocks of societal structure.

McGonigal splits her book into three major sections. First, McGonigal presents us with theory that connects positive psychological affect to that of gaming. The second section of her book provides several examples of ARG’s (Alternate Reality Games) that help produce chemical inducing building blocks for not only living happier lives, but for promoting change within a social construct. The third section investigates her research on a large scale, where she reports the findings of massive somewhat MOG that have helped actually create social change.

Conceptually, McGonigal’s ideas are extremely sound and could help to bring about a new type of thinking regarding traditional models of our social system. In my opinion, the best examples of this involve “Quest to Learn” (the New York City based grades school which has totally revamped their educational structure with game mechanics to make learning more engaging http://www.instituteofplay.org/work/projects/quest-schools/quest-to-learn/) and the crowdsourcing objectives of “Investigate Your MP’s Expenses” (which “led to the resignations of dozens of parliament members and ultimately inspired sweeping political reform” within the British parliament. (McGonigal 221) http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/dec/16/mps-expenses-what-we-learned).

Fundamentally, McGonigal’s arguments are a much needed breathe of fresh air in a society where introspection has become a dominant (and sometimes difficult) mode for the formation of happiness. I really enjoyed the idea that operant conditioning occurs in videogames via reinforcement. In fact, I have been thinking about the psychological affect of videogames in this fashion for quite some time so it was great to read about actual research being done on the topic. One of my favorite concepts that produces some of the most potent chemicals for my brain is that of fiero attached to a grand scale of epic storytelling (such games as the Final Fantasy Series as example not
only produce fiero for me but also help to fulfill my psychological need for narrative catharsis).

My major concern with McGonigal’s work does not involve her examples of ARG’s nor her incessant use of positive psychology, but how she skews her research at times for the benefit of her argument (one of the more troubling instances pertains to her discussion on
frequent flyer rewards which she takes down a notch due to extrinsic reward, but ultimately praises “Four Square” for being capable of producing such a byproduct as extrinsic reward within local business).

My questions for this week are as follows:

1) Can we not experience fiero within literature? Is fiero something only pertaining to interactive environments? Is fiero not just a MASSIVE catharsis?

2) Do you think the first graduating class of “Quest to Learn” will have trouble in post secondary institutions?

3) How does the narrative function of ARG’s also affect the player? Do these games truly (despite McGonigal’s research telling us otherwise) produce positive affect when we are pretending to “Kill” someone with kindness? Is the goal still not “killing”, something we fundamentally view as a negative?

Thu, January 24 2013 » futurecinema2_2012