This is case study psychology book that I read because it sounded really interesting. It sums itself up well: How Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. It’s obviously a biased book since (a) look at that title and (b) she was actually a game designer of some renown, in the right circles. Regardless though, I agree with her. It’s a great read for anyone who plays games or knows people who are avid gamers themselves.
I could easily go on for three pages on why this book is so good (she wrote a book on the topic after all) but I’ll keep my pages of annotations to myself. Instead I’ll look at the three sections.
Why Games Make Us Happy
The most interesting section for me, this mostly looked at the psychology of games. And brought up an interesting point. You don’t have to be able to win a game for it to be a good game: it makes sense but had never occurred to me. Think Tetris, it’s impossible to win, but strangely addictive! She says that the main reasons games are fun is that they are voluntary and give us problems that we know have solution. Knowing something can be done promotes optimism and the challenge of hard problem keeps us learning and on the edge of our skills. Also, seeing your avatar grow an improve means you can see the immediate benefit of our actions. She obviously goes on to say all this transfers onto our real lives. Also, games are (in description) the exact opposite of clinical depression. The social side of games includes helping others play and being in a gaming community, which helps introverts (your stereotypical gamer).
Here, she begins to talk about how games have started integrating with real life: in schools, business and as way to fight stress. She says it helps to get an “awe fix” that keeps us aware of bigger things in life (whether you are of Faith or not). And if life is chaotic? Games give you a feeling of power and control which helps your outlook. She talks about www.chorewars.com and how the gaming element makes the boring exciting. And if you integrate games with life, they no longer became escapist, but a different way of dealing with a hard reality. An interesting example is a school that is completely like a game. Everyone get ‘quests’ and they level up (not grades). It increases the desire to learn! Think of Nike+. It’s a game which encourages running because you get mileage (points) and how you’ve improve over time (levelling up). There are also other games: one like the famous college Assassins, but instead it’s a gradual team thing and you win with kind actions, or games to play in cemeteries. This section’s about games improving quality of life and general happiness.
How Very Big Games Can Change the World
This is an example of how games have done good things. Look at www.freerice.com where you can learn and help starving children, folding.stanford.edu which helps look at proteins to fight diseases or the Extraordinaries, which lets you volunteer seconds to help others. I only use 'freerice’, personally, but they’re all good cause and have game-like qualities. An interesting fact is that if you 10 000 hours of something before 21, you’ll be an expert at that in later life. Students and my generation are going to achieve this easily, so we’ll have a society of expert gamers. As she argues, an untapped resource!
I’ve been a bit vague here because if I went into any detail, you’d have an essay in front of you. It’s hard to recommend this book. I picked it up because I read about it online and thought that it sounded interesting and decided to get it. I can only say if your curiosity is sparked like mine was, get it. If not, don’t worry. Psychologists aren’t going to cry at night because you decided to miss this.