Reality Is Broken: Review

TL;DR Synopsis

Games are cool and we can take some of their best features and implement them in real life to improve the world.

TL;DR Review

A strong start, but a weak finish. May as well just listen to the SXSW Talk.

Read It If:

  • you really, really liked the SXSW talk
  • you are doing some sort of academic work on gaming and/or digital writing
  • you don’t really understand the appeal of gaming

Skip It If:

  • you really like gaming, but aren’t interested in gamifying your life
  • you have zero interest in video games and are not interested in learning about why others like them


While an undergraduate, I took a class called “Writing in the Digital Age.” It was one of the best classes I took and covered a lot of material, some of which related to gaming. To introduce this section, the professor showed Jane McGonigal’s SXSW talk, “Reality Is Broken.”

Being a gamer, I loved the talk. She was saying things I already knew, but in a way that could appreal to those who weren’t as familiar with the world of modern gaming. It started a great discussion among the class and there was a lot of back and forth about what constitutes a game, it’s worthiness, and how writing for games is connected to — and a natural progression of —  the writing we’re all used to.

Fast forward a couple of years and I see Reality Is Broken the book at the library.Remembering the SXSW talk, I snapped it up, expecting a more in-depth discussion of some of the ideas presented in the talk and the introduction of some new ideas she didn’t have time to present.


I wasn’t wrong. There’s a lot of overlap between the talk and the book (not surprising). And at first, I thought the book was going to be amazing. It opens strong, with a lot of good ideas and expansion upon those ideas. I like the way she breaks down her ideas and discusses one at a time, instead of introducing everything and discussing all of her points at once. Honestly, this breakdown makes the book extremely conducive to skimming, which I recommend. I’m normally all for reading a book cover-to-cover, but in this case, just hunt for the “Rules” and read on with the ones that are most interesting to you. That way, you get to skip over the rather boring autobiographical bits and just get the meaty parts.


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