Broken

The truth is this: in today’s society, computer and video games are fulfilling genuine human needs that the real world is currently unable to satisfy. Games are providing rewards that reality is not. They are teaching and inspiring and engaging us in ways that reality is not. They are bringing us together in ways that reality is not.

And unless something dramatic happens to reverse the resulting exodus, we’re fast on our way to becoming a society in which a substantial portion of our population devotes its greatest efforts to playing games, creates its best memories in game environments, and experiences its biggest successes in game worlds.

“Reality is Broken” by Jane McGonigal

When I reviewed my notes from this book, I started to wonder just how disconnected I am from the present moment.

I think I’ve reflected a lot recently on how I often find myself in the past and future when it comes to my thoughts. In reviewing these notes, I started to wonder where I’m also living in the past and future but in my actions.

(I mean, there is a thought process to most of my actions too. Usually when I think about this, though, I’m curious how often I stop at finding that “I like this” or “I want this.” I wonder if I’d discover something new if I asked “Why do I like this?” or “Why do I want this?”)

I played badminton last night, so when I first read this quote, I started to think about badminton.

I wonder how much I play badminton (or volleyball) because it presents a sense of purpose. I mean, it’s fun to play badminton, but unless you’re just hitting the shuttle around, there are rules and the purpose is to win. And then there’s also the purpose to get better.

This has me living in the future because I’m either living in a future where I’m winning or a future where I’m losing; a future where I will be challenged or a future where I’m not being challenged. And that future I can see (though often subconsciously) often determines how much I’m liking the game or wanting to play. My motivation drops down if I’m playing a game where I’m lagging 10 points behind because now my future is bleak. I’m more motivated to play against someone who’s slightly better than me than someone who’s never hit a shuttle before because I’m living into a future where I’m improving myself.

I wonder how much I play badminton because it gives me a sense of belonging. In one sense, I mean this in that there’s often a team aspect to sports (and players perform best on a team when they feel they belong there). In another sense, I mean this in that when you’re playing, you’re surrounded by people with a common interest: badminton. So even if you’re not on the same team, you at least have something in common that joins you in a group of its own.

This has me living in the past because I’m looking to fix a problem I had in the past. In the past, I’ve had experiences where I felt alone, unwanted, and like I didn’t belong. Seeking this sense of belonging is attractive to me because it’s different from the pain of isolation. Although it seems like I’m moving away from that past, I’m still trapped in it because I pursue this in response to it. And in that way, I make my past feel more concrete—more real.

And beyond sports, I’m wondering where I play out similar patterns in my life. For instance, I wonder if I enjoy productivity systems because of the community of productive people, the feeling of forward progress, and the proof that I’m competent.

I wonder…

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