Chapter seven has been my favourite so far. Games are often more engaging than reality, but she writes, "the less we fully participate in our everyday lives, the fewer opportunities we have to be happy." Good to hear. "The emotional and social rewards we really crave require active, enthusiastic, self-motivated participation."
In this chapter, the first in Part Two: Reinventing Reality, the "antiescpatist" games, Alternate Reality Games (ARGs). These games you play to get more out of your real life.
One type are life-management games, like Chore Wars, that help you to manage your real life. Chore Wars is a game you play with your family or roommates. The actual tasks are real household chores, with the points awarded as part of the on-line game.
In the category of organizational ARGs, she discusses a new charter school, Quest to Learn, which has set up the school itself to be a game. Rather than schools using games as pedagogical devices, the school itself is a game. I found this section very interesting, with powerful implications for education. I made a copy of this section and gave to our Christian Ed director to share with the Education Ministry.
The rationale for Quest to Learn is that "born-digital kids" are doing worse in school because traditional pedagogy doesn't work anymore because "they take high-intensity engagement and active participation for granted. They know what extreme, positive activation feels like, and when they're not feeling it, they're bored and frustrated."
She quotes Marc Pensky, author of Teaching Digital Natives, "All the students we teach have something in their lives that's really engaging -- something that they do and that they are good at, something that has an engaging, creative component to it. . . . By comparison, school is so boring that kids, used to this other life, can't stand it. . . . they know what real engagement feels like. They know exactly what they're missing."
I simply can't in this blogpost describe Quest to Learn as fully as she does in this chapter. But their website is a great place to learn more. McGonigal describes the day of a typical student, and part of what was so interesting to me, was how learning was very much about gaining skills and developing teams in order to succeed at quests. I highly encourage you to read, at least, this portion of the book.
I also really liked the final section, which described a concept ARG designed by McGonigal herself called SuperBetter. It has implications for our pastoral and congregational care. In fact, we are already playing an ARG!
McGonigal designed the game when she was trying to recover from a concussion. She designed a set of missions with the purpose of giving herself a series of small projects to fulfill so that she had measurable progress (and leveling up). By doing this, even the small steps of success, made her feel more powerful against her illness. It also included recruiting a team of allies with specific roles to play. Here are the five missions the game starts with:
1) Create your identity
2) Recruit your allies. She writes that when she recruited these allies, she felt they finally got what she had been trying to tell them about her illness before the game.
3) Find the bad guys -- identify all the things that make you feel worse
4) Identify your power-ups -- all the things that make you feel better. Now you'll try to collect as many of these as you can every day.
5) Make a list of goals, including daily goals. Involve your allies in creating these and fulfilling them.
I can imagine using this as a method is pastoral care, designing steps like this for various people.
Now, lest you think that this could add further levels of guilt and shame to someone trying to recover or someone who will not recover from their illness, she writes, "You play in order to discover how well you can do--not because you're guaranteed to win. SuperBetter has to acknowledge the possibility of failure to achieve complete recovery. But it can also make it less scary to fail--because there is an abundance of other goals to pursue and othe rewarding activities to undertake along the way." So, there is a potential problem here, but I also think potential for great good if developed properly.
Maybe the best result of SuperBetter is that invited the sufferer to think outside the box in a new and alternative way.
The chapter concludes with idea that "Game design is a structure." We can use it, then, to answer questions like "What habits should we be encouraging? What actions should we be multiplying?"