Let’s make 2019 the year we read together. Our first book club discussion: Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken on February 4th, 2019 at 6p Pacific.
2018 was a whirlwind of a year. We’ve overcome challenges, but we’re also presented with new ones: issues ranging from government corruption to climate change, online privacy and more. We’re questioning many of the fundamental ways of living in the modern world, trying to make sense of the increasingly-blurry line between digital and physical landscapes. This seems like a perfect opportunity for some reflection and discussion.
For 2019, we’re launching Intelligame Reads, a monthly book club. Each month we’ll take on a piece of game-related literature, read it independently, then come together as a group to discuss themes and ideas. It’s a great chance to prioritize reading in life and create time for thoughtful discussion!
I did a whole lot of reading in 2018, so long as that content came from an infinite scroll. My main reading came from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the articles they delivered. Keeping up with the most recent hot-takes and “critical” news drained me. Discussion around posts often felt limited: posts and replies, tweets and likes. I often wished for a space where I discuss readings outside of the news cycle. This says nothing for the dreaded “decreasing attention span” that so often lamented in the modern era: sitting to read a book for an extended period of time has proven a tough task for me.
Over the past few months, multiple community members have suggested the idea of a book club for Intelligame. For me, books have been a critical part of the gaming experience since I was young. I pored over instruction manuals included with video store rentals, shone flashlights on Player’s Guides in the backseat of the car when my parents ran errands. Choose Your Own Adventure books provided a chance to play AND read. Now, as gaming culture grows, books contain more than just the lore of games: they contain the history of the craft, the experiences and lessons of people who’ve created these games we love. Books contain so many lessons about the past, and visions for the future. It’s this spirit that guided me towards our first Intelligame Reads selection.
Why “Reality is Broken”
Multiple people have recommended this book to me over the years as an example of game design practices crossing into the real world. The book’s initial premise is simple: if people elect to spend so much time with games, games must be doing something that “reality” isn’t. Using her own experience in the game industry, McGonigal proposes taking concepts from game design and integrating them into physical space. There’s no question that games increasingly dominate our attention, as well as more of our economy: it’s no small claim to state “Reality is broken.”
At the same time, this book was published in 2011. Times have changed: the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and even the Wii U weren’t released then. Even the popular mobile puzzle game Candy Crush Saga wasn’t released yet. Gaming’s been caught flat-footed, too: International investigations into loot boxes shook up the industry. The World Health Organization now formally recognizes “gaming disorder.” A person was killed after being “swatted:” having emergency services unduly sent to his house for a false threat.
And, of course, there’s the harassment that marginalized people have suffered in game spaces for years, now hyper-charged and enabled by anonymity and increasing digital connection. Gamergate, the harassment campaign predominantly targeting women in the gaming industry and pioneering many tactics utilized by the “alt-right” today, started in 2014. One might ask, if reality was broken in 2011, what is it now?
Still, even with those issues, games have made amazing changes in the physical world. Fundraisers like Extra Life and Awesome Games Done Quick raise millions of dollars every year for charities through games. Cheaper, more accessible game dev tools give indie devs the ability to tell unique, powerful stories in their own styles. Online bonds create real-world friendships, romantic relationships, business partnerships, and more. And, as cloud computing, VR, and other gaming technologies become cheaper and more accessible, we’ll see these effects grow.
The principles that shape the games we play shape the world we live in, too. For discussion, we’ll talk about McGonigal’s suggestions, as well as the world’s changes post-2011. We can tackle other discussions, too! By studying games and logic that drives them, we can better understand what drives us. Reality may be broken, but it doesn’t mean we can’t fix it.
How to Join Intelligame Reads
Intelligame Reads is a digital book club: each month we’ll select a different text connected to gaming and read it independently. Non-fiction or fiction, a book or a long-form article… pretty much any well-crafted, lengthy print work that helps us connect games and the world around us. If you have ideas for future Intelligame Reads books, you can make suggestions using our Content Suggestion Form!
Before the livestream, you can talk with others about the book in the #intelligame-reads channel on Discord. We’ll then host our live discussions the first Monday of each month at 6pm Pacific on the Intelligame Twitch channel. If you’re supporting Intelligame on Patreon, you can join the discussion in our special live voice chat via Discord! Even if you’re not a patron, you can still participate by joining the text chat on Twitch. All are welcome to take part!
Intelligame Reads gives a low-stress opportunity to share thoughts and opinions about the books and the world. Try to read the whole work before the livestream, but feel free to attend even if you haven’t completely finished. Let’s all learn and grow from each other’s ideas and experiences as well as the work itself.
We’ll tweak the experience as we go along, so feel free to give any feedback you have! For now, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Reality is Broken and join Intelligame Reads. See you on Feb 4th!