I heard an interview with Jane McGonigal, author of Reality is Broken, and decided I had to buy the book.
Rather than a mind-numbing wasteland, games actually do some good things. It isn't games that are the problem, McGonigal says. It's reality.
She's not saying that we should all run out and pretend we're aliens, but that our social structures like work and school are actually counterproductive to learning and innovation.
Gamers are notoriously optimistic, even in the face of multiple failures. They will face seemingly impossible obstacles while their characters die over and over again. Why? Because they always have another chance to succeed. Despite their loner reputations, gamers are actually quite social because they need to be in order to achieve their goals. They need each others' skills in order to defeat the armies of bad guys. No one can do it alone.
Contrast this with school, where an academic failure appears on a student's record permanently, or a work environment, where a big enough failure to meet expectations means no more job for the employee.
A game-based school called Quest to Learn recently opened in New York City. Every day gives students a chance to learn. They might discover a secret code hidden in a library book, gain "master" status by learning a new skill, level up by completing tasks, fight a boss monster requiring them to use all the knowledge they've gained, or teach virtual characters how to do certain tasks.
I once interviewed a game developer for a magazine article. One thing he loved about his job was that he got to play at work. You could easily argue that that's the nature of his work, but I think that just about any field could make work like play. There are already games and apps available that motivate people to run or to do housework by allowing them to accumulate points or with avatars that can be customized to look like the user.
A couple of years ago, I read Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck. I only remember one thing from the entire book. People who had found their calling in life described their work as "play".
How do you think work could change to become more like a game?