Reality is Broken

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I loved this book. Contrary to popular belief, Ms. McGonigal states that online internet games should not be dismissed as escapist entertainment activities. She felt that games do not distract us from our real lives, but actually fill them with positive emotions, activities, experiences, and strengths. She then went on to challenge us all as a society to adopt a new hunger for more satisfying work, for a stronger sense of community, and for a more engaging and meaningful life —similar to the emotions that are evoked when we are on a virtual environment online.

book imgThis book totally clarified to me why I felt so good when I was online playing AstroEmpires, posting threads on Yahoo football forums, and writing and editing articles on Wikipedia. I did all this from my smartphones here in prison. I knew it was against the rules to have a cell phone, but I still went and got them. I never understood the compelling need and obsession, and ultimately, addiction until I did a lot of self-reflection.

I had attributed my internet addiction merely to my circumstances: it was a way for me to escape from the realities of my situation in life; I falsely felt I deserved some sense of freedom because I should be able to interact with society; in essence I had still not completely evolved past my arrogance and selfishness.

Through the book, I learned that game developers understand our basic human needs of feeling successful, leading rewarding lives, being social, and a part of something larger than ourselves. Because of that understanding, game developers try to satisfy those needs through the environments they create. That is why I felt, similar to many of my guildmates on AstroEmpires, that the game brought out the best of our human qualities. I felt a sense of belonging, and through teamwork, cooperation, and collaboration I led a successful, rewarding life through my online identity. I was a part of something much bigger than myself; in essence I was engaging in prosocial behavior online. I felt good. I felt alive. The only problem was that I was still in prison for murder and not supposed to be on any cell phones.

There are many days when I miss my online friends and community, but I realize that I must now consciously choose to abide by the rules of my society in here. This is my reality, not some imaginary online world. Gaining a deeper understanding of the emotions that online games evoked in me has actually made me more inspired to try to apply those same principles to my daily life in here — with the community around me.

Instead of viewing prison as a place of despair and hopelessness, why can't we optimistically engage with each other in here? There are a multitude of ways to enjoy the world and relish life, even from prison. We can think positive thoughts, make social connections, and build up each others' Positive strengths. We can shift our thinking from selfishness to community, which will give some sense of meaning to our lives — to belong to something much bigger than ourselves by contributing to the greater good. Ms. McGonigal stated it best: "Find your place in the larger scheme of things. It is about quieting the press of self-interest. It is about folding into social collectives. Our single most urgent mission in life — to engage with reality, as fully and deeply as we can, every waking moment of our lives."

Those words have inspired me to view the world and my fellow man differently, and a greater sense of purpose on how to approach life.

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