Book roundup: John Medina, Jane McGonigal

John Medina - Brain Rules (2008)

John Medina – Brain Rules (2008)

Exercise and sleep are good for the brain, multitasking is a myth, stress makes you stupid, and repetition and repetition and multi-sensory input aids memory.

Recommended: Yes. It’s basic, but Medina seems to take science seriously, the snappy title isn’t stupid, and even his anecdotes are discreet. See, pop-sci authors, is that so difficult?

Jane McGonigal – Reality is Broken (2011)

Gamification is to add a layer of gaming mechanics (goals, rules, feedback and meaning) on top of everyday activities, to achieve something useful, or just for the fun of it. I’ve been experimenting with gamification since long before there was a word for it. But McGonigal brings out the cynic in me, and when I picture her gamified utopia, I see a world of superficial geeks using carefully designed Happiness Hacks to become the emotional equivalent of health freaks. It’s not that I don’t see how checking in to Foursquare, or taking part in Halo 3’s 10 billion kill challenge, can provide your life with a meaning that it otherwise lacks – I just don’t see this as something to aspire to. Nor do I see the millions of World of Warcraft players as an army of potential do-gooders who stand ready to Save the World, if only someone could translate this into the right gaming metaphors.

Recommended: No. The basic ideas are sound, but the uncritical enthusiasm makes you feel like you’re reading this from twenty years into the future, looking back on the naivety of an earlier generation.

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