What You Are Missing
The utopian vision of one ardent proponent of gamification
Reality Is Broken:
Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World
by Jane McGonigal
Penguin Press HC, The
$26.95 List Price
There are more than four thousand charter schools in the United States, but there's only one that tries to mimic a video game. At Quest to Learn, which serves sixth through twelfth graders in New York City, students get little of traditional homework, lectures, studying, or even grades. Instead, they engage in goal-oriented "missions," supposedly accumulating knowledge and skills across disciplines while, say, pretending to be an adviser to the Spartan government during the Peloponnesian War. As in a video game, they progress at more or less their own pace, and there's never anything as definitive as a permanent score or a failed assignment.
We desperately need alternative models to our country's failing public-education system. But to game designer Jane McGonigal, the author of Reality Is Broken, Quest to Learn represents not just an alternative but the very future of secondary education. "Their ideal school is a game," she writes, which would mirror the immersive online worlds in which millions of children—and adults—spend their free time. And McGonigal's faith in the power of games is hardly limited to education. According to her, games can, and will, refashion the way we work, volunteer, and socialize—that is, the very way we live, online and off. "Game design," she writes, is "a twenty-first-century way of thinking and leading. And gameplay isn't just a pastime. It's a twenty-first-century way of working together to accomplish real change."
McGonigal is not alone, at least when "accomplishing real change" means "making lots of money": According to the popular online