Friday, March 25, 2011

We are bored with play, we prefer to work!

         This idea came up in two books I have recently read.  Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal and Fannie’s Last Supper by Christopher Kimball. Both books came to this idea differently but it just stuck me as interesting that two books on two different topics would each make that point and that I’d read them one right after the other.

In Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal points out why reality is broken and how fixes taken from the world of gaming can help fix reality.  One of the key points is that many of the popular games on the market today rely on overcoming obstacles and in a sense is a form of work.  Games ranging from Golf, to Solitare, to a MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing game) like World of Warcraft. We get a sense of pleasure from working hard at these games to get better at them, yes we have fun but we feel the pay off of the work we put into getting better. 
In Fannie’s Last Supper Christpher Kimball describes the details and years of work that when into preparing a Victorian 12 course meal.  He talks about the different ways they tried to make the original recipes from the ingredients found into today’s kitchens/stores and the number of times they tried and tweaked until they got it right.  He talks about the night of the dinner and how at the end, after his team worked unbelievably hard they enjoyed themselves.  All that hard work was fun, because they reached a goal that meant something, they did something they loved and it was a success even though they were in what most people would consider unbearable conditions. (They mistakenly overheated the wood burning stove they were using and turned the kitchen into a boiler room.) 

I rather work hard at a game for multiple hours than sit and watch TV for hours on end, that’s probably the reason I have at least 3 weeks’ worth of television programs still sitting on my DVR but my WOW characters are leveling at a good pace. With Easter nearing my family is talking about getting together to make our Easter Bread.  We spend one whole day mixing up the dough and at the end of the day yes I’m tired but it was so worth the work and the sore back.

Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Happy and How They Can Change the World

Shows how game designers have hit on core truths about what makes us happy, and utilized these discoveries to astonishing effect in virtual environments. This title reveals how gamers have become expert problem solvers and collaborators, and shows how we can use the lessons of game design to socially positive ends.

Fannie's Last Supper: Two Years, Twelve Courses, and Creating One Amazing Meal from Fannie Farmer's 1896 Cookbook

In Fannie's Last Supper, Kimball describes the experience of re-creating one of Fannie Farmer's amazing menus: a twelve-course Christmas dinner that she served at the end of the century. Kimball immersed himself in composing twenty different recipes--including rissoles, Lobster à l'Américaine, Roast Goose with Chestnut Stuffing and Jus, and Mandarin Cake--with all the inherent difficulties of sourcing unusual animal parts and mastering many now-forgotten techniques, including regulating the heat on a coal cookstove and boiling a calf's head without its turning to mush, all sans food processor or oven thermometer. Kimball's research leads to many hilarious scenes, bizarre tastings, and an incredible armchair experience for any reader interested in food and the Victorian era.

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