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The Embroidery Stitch Bible

The Embroidery Stitch Bible - Betty Barnden, Debbie Bradley I kept reading this book hoping McGonigal would turn out to have written something else. It's all about how and why structured games are so compelling and powerful that we can (and should) use them to solve real-world problems. Sounds great, right? What I wanted was for her to tell me how to incorporate aspects of gameplay into things we already do, to make them more compelling. No, instead she swallows her own thesis that, objectively measured, there is nothing more compelling or fulfilling than a good game, and so what we should do is create new games—explicitly labeled and announced as games—with world problem-solving as their content. Nothing else in human arts & culture is up to the challenges of the future. Games today often have content—serious content—that directs our attention to real and urgent problems at hand. We are wrapping real problems inside of games: scientific problems, social problems, economic problems, environmental problems. And through our games, we are inventing new solutions to some of our most pressing human challenges. [Kindle location 5722 or so] The attraction is the game, not the content.While she takes pains to include physical sports, both team and individual, strategy games, abstracted contests like chess, and various sorts of individual challenges, her big interest is in massively multiplayer games. Now, I know Worlds of Warcraft and Halo or whatever are the most mammoth arts/entertainment phenomena ever in the history of the world, at least as measured in dollars—I'll make up an exaggerated statistic, but it's probably true: let's say Halo sold 10x more in its first week than the entire global print publishing industry did that entire year. That still doesn't interest me in 1) a limited computer-simulated immersive environment instead of the real physical one; or 2) inventing an identity and having it interact in limited computer-simulated ways with endless strangers' invented identities.But isn't that what you're doing here on Goodreads? you ask. No; this is not an immersive environment, nor is Facebook or Google+ or anything like that; they're not designed as and cannot be taken as simulations or substitutes of the real physical world. And while my identity here is inescapably selective, probably "improved" on reality, it's not a complete fabrication; and the people I interact with are not strangers but friends, in most cases people I already know well in the real physical world. There's certainly an aspect of gameplay going on here: trying to attract a certain quantity or quality of friends, getting people to respond to what you post, following the moves of others. McGonigal points out that Foursquare does this as a kind of gameplay structure for real-world social interaction, but my experience (living in a small town) was that it encouraged a small amount of commercial interaction and nothing social (since nobody else in town used it). Still, let's say Goodreads is using gameplay structures to encourage and support the reading and discussion of books: is anyone here because they were looking for a game, or are we all here because we wanted to talk about books?Maybe I'm weird—OK, I definitely am—but I am never going to want to play a game for its own sake. I run for exercise; I play cards to structure social interactions; I do crosswords to challenge my language skills. Just because something is a game does not make it compelling. If it's already interesting, gamifying it can improve and focus the attraction, sure. So what I wanted to read—and this is a book which, until about 2/3 of the way through, I thought McGonigal might still be aiming to write—was ideas and inspiration for adding gamelike structure, focus, and attraction to already-existing artistic, cultural, and other human activities which don't seem to be compelling enough by themselves for some people. Not wrapping them inside a game (see the quote above), but wrapping games inside them.Other than its thesis, McGonigal's book is very loosely written and repetitive (down to a "Conclusion" which does nothing but recap the preceding chapters). It's full of interesting stuff which is well-documented in the notes, but it's so in thrall to its thesis—and depends more and more on games McGonigal herself designed and analyzed—that I began to doubt that the other research was being accurately presented.