+10 Pole Position reference
Pole Position, Namco, 1982
I’ve known the joy of preparing to qualify, of leveling up with magic mushrooms, of speeding the flight of an angry bird. Yet video games often leave me feeling stale and restless. Shouldn’t I be outgrowing these electronic entanglements? When one of my sons catches me playing a game on my iPhone, I think of the old-school Princeton basketball coach, Pete Carril, who disliked seeing his players eat candy. Here’s the line from a Sports Illustrated profile: “He would wince when he saw a member of his team eating candy. Kids eat candy; he wanted his players to be men, and men drink beer.”
+10 Pole Position reference.
-5 Gratuitous mention of family.
The game theorist Jane McGonigal, in her new book, Reality Is Broken, advises me to eat candy and eat it without shame. My editor asked me to say a more about who McGonigal is, but I couldn’t really pin her down. She seems to be one of those lucky people who delivers keynote addresses at prestigious conferences and thinks about the future for a living—at Stanford. Let’s call her a Keynotist. Anway, my desire to play games makes perfect sense, she argues, because games offer structured environments, clear goals, and instant feedback on success or failure. The real world is uninspiring and dull in contrast. We rarely have the chance to feel heroic when working at our jobs or going about our daily business. “We are starving, and our games our feeding us,” McGonigal writes.
+5 Decent quote.
-10 Lame word-coinage.
That statement zeroes in on the great paradox of video games: People who are motivated to do little else will show extraordinary focus and foresight when playing a game. This power was present in video games from the very beginning. McGonigal discusses the first video-game memoir, Pilgrim in the Microworld, published in 1983, by a 43-year-old college professor named David Sudnow. He was obsessed with Atari’s Breakout: “This was a whole different business, nothing like I’d ever known, like night and day … Thirty seconds of play, and I’m on a whole new plane of being, all my synapses wailing.” Again, this was while playing Breakout.