Reality is Broken

Lessons for game building

  • Extrinsic rewards decrease intrinsic motivation
  • Positive-psychology shows intrinsic rewards fall into four main categories
    • Satisfying work – being immersed in clearly defined, demanding activities that allow us to see direct impact of our efforts
    • Experience (or hope) of being successful – we want to feel powerful in our lives, show off what we’re good at, be optimistic of our chances for success and feel like we’re improving over time
    • Social connection – share experiences and build bonds by accomplishing together things that matter
    • Meaning – be part of something bigger than ourselves.
  • Naches – Yiddish word for vicarious pride or bursting with pride we feel when someone we’ve taught or mentored succeeds
  • Fiero – Italian word that has come to mean the emotional high we feel after triumphing over adversity

Fixes for Reality

  1. Unnecessary Obstacles
    • Compared with games, reality is too easy. Games challenge us with voluntary obstacles and help us put our personal strengths to better use
  2. Emotional Activation
    • Compared with games, reality is depressing. Games focus our energy, with relentless optimism, on something we’re good at and enjoy
  3. More Satisfying Work
    • Compared with games, reality is unproductive. Games give us clearer missions and more satisfying, hands-on work
  4. Better Hope of Success
    • Compared with games, reality is hopeless. Games eliminate our fear of failure and improve our chances for success
  5. Stronger Social Connectivity
    • Compared with games, reality is disconnected. Games build stronger social bonds and lead to more active social networks. The more time we spend interacting within our social networks, the more likely we are to generate a subset of positive emotions known as “prosocial emotions”
  6. Epic Scale
    • Compared with games, reality is trivial. Games make us a part of something bigger and give epic meaning to our actions
  7. Wholehearted Participation
    • Compared with games, reality is hard to get into. Games motivate us to participate more fully in whatever we’re doing
  8. Meaningful Rewards When We Need Them Most
    • Compared with games, reality is pointless and unrewarding. Games help us feel more rewarded for making our best efforts
  9. More Fun with Strangers
    • Compared with games, reality is lonely and isolating. Games help us band together and create powerful communities from scratch
  10. Happiness Hacks
    • Compared with games, reality is hard to swallow. Games make it easier to take good advice and try out happier habits
  11. A Sustainable Engagement Economy
    • Compared with games, reality is unsustainable. The gratifications we get from playing games are an infinitely renewable resource
  12. More Epic Wins
    • Compared with games, reality is unambitious. Games help us define awe-inspiring goals and tackle seemingly impossible social missions together
  13. Ten Thousand Hours Collaborating
    • Compared with games, reality is disorganized and divided. Games help us make a more concerted effort – and over time, they give us collaboration superpowers
  14. Massive Multiplayer Foresight
    • Reality is stuck in the present. Games help us imagine and invent the future together

Important skills for solving large problems

  • Take a long view – look at scales far larger than we normally perceive
  • Ecosystem thinking – look at the problem as a complex web of interconnected and interdependent parts. Learn to perceive and anticipate how changes odd one aspect impact others.
  • Pilot experiments – design and run many small experiments to determine the best possible solutions.