Sunday, February 26, 2012

The right level of optimism

We're looking at Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, starting here.

Games, she says, are not simply distractions, but can actually develop socially important skills such as optimism, persistence and collaboration. Strangely enough, much of the time spent playing games is time spent failing - and learning to overcome the failure and steadily improve.


So her "fourth fix for reality" is:


Compared with games, reality is hopeless. Games eliminate our fear of failure and improve our chances for success. In many cases, that hope of success is more exciting than success itself. ....Because being really good at something is less fun than being not quite good enough—yet.


Games bring intrinsic happiness to people, she says. But they can also bring emotional strengths.


Learning to stay urgently optimistic in the face of failure is an important emotional strength that we can learn in games and apply in our real lives. When we’re energized by failure, we develop emotional stamina. And emotional stamina makes it possible for us to hang in longer, to do much harder work, and to tackle more complex challenges. We need this kind of optimism in order to thrive as human beings.

Even if this did not produce immediate transformation in the real world of society and community and politics, it would still be valuable. For one thing, it is a more realistic form of happiness for most people than dreams of celebrity or sports superstardom or becoming a fashion model.

The success we achieve in games is not, of course, real-world success. But for many people it is more realistic than the kinds of success we put pressure on ourselves to achieve—whether it’s money, beauty, or fame.

But there is more to it than this. It isn't just individual emotional strengths that games increasingly encourage, she argues. It is also cooperation and collaboration with others. The most popular computer games now tend to involve other people in common tasks.


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