12 thoughts on “2019-Week-2: What is a game?”

  1. I always appreciate the depth of the materials that we read in Digital studies classes. McGonigal is wrestling with some pretty intense things here, examining the growth of video games and what about the worlds created within them is so alluring for a gamer. McGonigal seeks to connect the brokenness of the world we live into the desire to escape to one where we have more control over, where we feel like we can forge our own paths (see https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/oct/16/video-games-power-agency-control).

    I think there are some really interesting balances to be struck here. I definitely agree that the world is broken, and the game spaces allow people who don’t have control of their lives to have control over something.

    “Games gave a starving population a feeling of power in a powerless situation, a sense of structure in a chaotic environment.”

    I think there is still an overall negative association with video games, as the author points out,

    “Many of them [non-gamers] deem gaming a clear waste of time.”

    There is a lot of good to be had from video games, a lot to be learned. I love how McGonigal handles the situation and her proposition that we should seek to take the things we like about video games and use them to transform reality. I think that often, both sides of the spectrum become too stubborn: gamers, especially intense ones, tend to lean too heavily into escapism, to the point where it becomes unhealthy, and non-gamers, who fail to acknowledge the need and the good that a separate game reality can be for a person today. What McGonigal seeks to do is rectify both sides. Incorporating gaming into various, often monotonous or stressful parts of our lives, like waking up, has the potential to transform the world around us.

    The author goes into what it is about games that make us happy. I love the quote she includes,

    “Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.”

    And think it illuminates the funny reality of what a game is. We like to overcome challenges, which McGonigal talks about, but games are inherently low-stakes, you can always restart or load an old save, plus outside of the context of this game it, most of the time, has no bearing on the rest of your life. Having obstacles is nice, but being motivated to overcome an obstacle in a game is so much easier, because if you fail, then it stays with you there. The compelling goal definitely helps, but having these low-risk obstacles are also necessary, although obviously not suitable for every obstacle. But including these into our lives is needed as well.

    1. While I understand Mcgonigal’s reasoning as to how games can be beneficial to life and that we should abandon the negative connotations of gaming, I still believe that games should be treated as a creative outlet or a medium such as film and books rather than as an alternative to finding other stress relievers. If you look at the gaming cafes in China, Japan, Korea, etc. and their horror stories, gaming addiction takes a massive toll on people’s lives and can cripple them socially and emotionally.

      I prefer games to be called what they are: either a tool to relieve stress/waste time and have fun(COD), a medium to view art (lots of indie games), or a combination of both (RDR2). Roger Ebert despised video games and never considered them as a real way for people to connect to art, but I think if the industry continues to push more cinematic and plot heavy games, they can definitely become even more mainstream.

    2. I’m totally sold. McGonigal explains in this article the way(s) in which video games offer an escape, giving insight into the definition of a video game, the science behind gaming, and historical evidence as to why, how, and what we are escaping.

      I think the coolest, most resonant passage for me had to be-
      “We often think of immersive gameplay as ‘escapist,’ a kind of passive retreat from reality. But through the lens of Herodotus’ history, we can see how
      games could be a purposeful escape, a thoughtful and active escape, and most
      importantly an extremely helpful escape.”

      And also “We are starving, and our games are feeding us.”

      Although grim, I don’t see it as an impossibility that we all end up existing in or sharing a virtual world in the (possibly not-so-) distant future. Even movies like Wall-E I think have it right that at some point we just run out of space on Earth… and then what? I think we’ll make and find video games a great escape from what will be a sour future. And I think you’re right – video games are so low stakes, and that’s what make them so addicting or so popular.

      This, and what you bring up in your comment Jacob, actually reminds me a lot of Ready Player One. The idea that we’ve messed our world up so much that the only way to escape is to create a virtual one. There’s this place called the OASIS, where you basically get to create your own avatar and live inside of a virtual reality that let’s you do anything in physical reality or in any other video game. Really cool book if you haven’t read it.

      It’s always been so fascinating to me to think about the addiction that we can have to playing video games. What makes big-name games like Fortnite or Call of Duty so popular? Is it the challenge of being better than your friends? Best in the world? Is it the beauty in the artwork? The notion of being able to do that which you are not usually able to in “real life”? Although perhaps impossible to answer, these questions are something that definitely resonate and linger with me, especially as I think about what my favorite game is and why I play it.

  2. McGonigal’s chapter dives into the meaning behind playing games, the influences of games, and the future of gameplay. A major idea in the reading is that people play games in order to detach themselves from reality, however, within these game spaces we can discover aspects that actually shape who we are and how we deal with issues in real life. Games are therapeutic in a sense as we utilize them to cope with real issues; we use games as a way to constantly receive feedback or develop creativity.

    “Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.”

    Q: I learned in Prof. Sample’s class that games do not create anything. The game space and reality are separate entities. When one reaches into the other, it is no longer a game. How would the author respond to this?


    1. I understand that a game space isn’t a real thing, just data stored on a hard drive, but if you really consider it, it’s hard to tell what reality is. We can only tell what’s there through our senses, which give us an extremely incomplete picture. We experience real life and video games primarily through the same two senses (sight and sound) and soon technology will allow us to use all five of our senses to experience the virtual world. The worlds of games are tailored to our senses that we use while playing them, but reality has no such tailoring; we’re missing out on most of it.

      I’m not sure what the author would say, but this is my argument.

    2. I really liked the quote you picked Tony. When I think about it, playing games really is completing unnecessary obstacles. But what intrigue me is why are such actions so amusing? I think people gain fulfillment in such actions.

  3. McGonigal discusses in the intro and first chapter of Reality is Broken many ideas behind video games and their role in our society. The book discusses depression and how it ties to video games. “I foresee games that treat depression, obesity, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder.” It is clear that McGonigal sees potential benefits of video games. She also goes into the four aspects of games: goal, rules, feedback system, and voluntary participation. It is very interesting to see how she describes these aspects of games and how they are integral to the success of a game. I, personally, disagree with many of the ideas that McGonigal presents, as I see video games to be detrimental to society for a variety of reasons. My question for the class is stated as such: At what point do we, as humans, stop playing video games and go outside and interact with each other?

    Below is a URL that argues my point about sports versus video games:


    1. The time is now. Video games have shown to be of benefit in helping training critical thinking skills, especially in time-crunch situations, but the world isn’t a video game. Your life is not a game.

  4. Summary: Jane McGonigal, in her book Reality is Broken, describes a world in which people are spending more and more time away from the real world in favor of the virtual. She points to increased hours of play per week, sales both nationally and internationally, and the increasing populations of gamers across the world. (200 million in China alone?) Her take on the trend seemingly pointing toward all of those values increasing stems from an idea that people are not being rewarded in their everyday life, that normal people aren’t able to do extraordinary things. She also pontificates that those who stick their nose’s into the air, so to speak, in regards to games are going to be left behind, specifically because she believes the trend towards more gaming will forever increase. Following this, the next section of the book jumps into defining a game by way of four traits: goals, rules, feedback system, voluntary participation. She uses the game Portal to illustrate her definition. Next she tackles how video games invoke positive emotion, and then breaks down the different types of work that is done in video games. They include mental work, creative work, teamwork among others. Lastly she discusses a final emotional benefit called fiero, or pride, which she describes as a primal emotional rush.

    Quote: “Reality, compared to games, is broken.”
    Comment: Her assertion that reality is broken is as misguided, as it is incorrect. Reality is not in fact broken, however what is are individuals who think that, for whatever reason, that they are special in the grand scheme of things. You are not special, you are most likely average. So does running off and hiding from real world responsibilities via video games help us or hurt us as a people? The answer is unclear, however assuming that gaming is the be all end all to help and change our society is hogwash.
    Follow-up: To what extent are video games part of your routine? In all honesty, are they of benefit or not?
    Link: https://www.cpc.unc.edu/projects/addhealth/publications/5189

    1. I would say that video games are a part of my routine when they involve interacting with my friends. I would say overall, they are a negative impact on my life. The time that I spend playing video games should be spent bettering myself overall.

  5. Summary: McGonigal, in her book Reality is Broken, makes the case that video games are more than nearly anyone perceives them to be. While some people see them as a way to escape reality and others see them as a form of art, still others can only view them as a waste of time and energy. McGonigal is able to see every side of the argument, but adds her own twist as well. This twist serves as both a commentary on the modern world and a call to action for developers, gamers, and those who oppose them. Her idea is that reality could learn a thing or two from games. Games of all kinds are engineered with one purpose: enjoyment. They are built from the ground up to make us happy and give us a rush of excitement. This rush of excitement is why games make people happy. However, this can be dangerous. Gaming addiction is a serious problem, and it is a growing problem. McGonigal argues that games are an important part of the human experience, and while they shouldn’t be used to replace reality, can be used to enhance it.

    Quote: “The truth is this: in today’s society, computer and video games are fulfilling
    genuine human needs that the real world is currently unable to satisfy.”

    Comment: While trying to define games, McGonigal outlines the four things that are necessary for a game to exist. Games must have a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation. In reality, these things are typically fairly weak, and take a long time to reach. For instance, most people have goals and aspirations, but most of these goals take years to achieve and, sadly, most people never fully reach their goals. Life has rules, like laws and morals, but not everyone follows these rules and sometimes they can get in the way of our happiness rather than helping us reach it. Life’s feedback systems are hard to track and unpredictable. The only clear feedback is death. Finally, we have voluntary participation. None of us chose to be here, and much of what happens to us in life isn’t by choice either.
    This is why games are so enjoyable and important. They are able to provide, in a neat package, everything that life is missing.

    Question: Do you think that society’s perception of video games adds to their typically toxic culture, or is it the other way around?

    Link: http://www.techaddiction.ca/video-game-addiction.html

  6. “And it turns out that what we’re really afraid of isn’t games; we’re afraid of losing track of where the game ends and where reality begins.”
    McGonigal started this chapter with the common fear people have for games. This fear can be seen in our culture, our language. He then explains the reason of being afraid is not games themselves, but the ability of them to affect the reality.
    He then goes ahead and makes his arguments about what is a game. A game should have four key elements: the goal, the rules, the feedback system, and the voluntary participation. These elements can be arranged freely to make a game: they do not need to come in exact order. However, they are essential and SHOULD exist in every game.
    I think McGonigal’s assertion about people’s bias against games does really exist. “Gamer” is usually used as a derogatory term and people who earn this name are often looked down upon. However, I do not believe there are things inherently wrong about games.
    My question for this reading is: is it possible to make a game with only some of or even none of the four defining traits?

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