Sunday, 7 July 2013

Tips for good gaming from Jane McGonigal

In an appendix to her book Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal provides practical advice for gamers to get the most positive impact from playing games. Her tips (and my commentary in italics) are as follows:

  • Don't play more than 21 hours per week. Freak - how is it possible to play as much as 21 hours a week and still have some sort of productive and meaningful alternative life? Three hours per day seems like an extraordinarily large chunk of life, at least for someone at my age and stage of life. Perhaps while I was at uni I could have secured this amount of time - I was doing an arts degree after all!
  • Playing with real-life friends and family is better than playing alone all the time, or with strangers. This seems like a good conclusion to her observations about the social nature of gaming.
  • Playing face to face with friends and family beats playing with them online. She suggests that this is particularly true for parent-child relationships. Both multi-player and taking turns at single-player games have value here. Although we don't often get the Wii out, it is always social when we do and it is a great way for me to spend time with my daughters. We're also enjoying Clash of Clans together at the moment.And.of course, the time-honoured playing of card games and board games while on holidays fits into this pattern too!
  • Cooperative gameplay, overall, has more benefits than competitive gameplay. I hadn't thought about categorising gaming into these categories before, but will do from now on. It makes sense.
  • Creative games have special positive impacts. Minecraft springs to mind as the creative game that students are playing at the moment.
  • You can get all the benefits of a good game without realistic violence. I like the suggestion that you could stick to games that do not require you to hurt human characters - obviously zombies, aliens, vampires etc do not count!
  • Any game that makes you feel bad is no longer a good game for you to play. This is an interesting one. My observation is that some games require a bit more recalibration to switch out of - if a game requires aggression, or quick responses, or in some other way demands heightened adrenalin, it can lead to a twitchy or anti-social mood in the gamer in the immediate aftermath. I also note that, for all the intense engagement that I feel when 'into' a game, I sometimes experience a seedy feeling of regret afterwards - maybe a bit like eating McDonalds or reading trashy fiction. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but ...
Sensible stuff - although the upper limit of 21 hours seems a lot!


  1. I can certainly relate to your last point. I thought that the McDonald's analogy was very appropriate, particularly when contrasted with the positive feeling that almost always comes from playing board-games, cards or Wii with friends and family.

  2. Thanks Matt. I understand that there is a phenomenon known as 'gamers regret' that can follow a gaming binge!