Quick update – Games, Reality, and Haskell

It had been a little while since my last post, so I wanted to just jot down some stuff I’ve been doing lately.

First, in order to learn Haskell, I started working though Haskell’s 99 Questions, which is a series of short functions of increasing difficulty.  I have my solutions hosted on my github repo.

The other thing I have going on is I’m reading Jane McGonigal’s Reality Is Broken.  The book leverages a lot of research in positive psychology to argue that games (the book takes the slant of video games, but really any kind of unnecessary obstacle activity such as rock climbing) are “better” than reality.  The basic argument of the book so far is this: if modern psychological research shows us that people are in their happiest and most activated state when playing games, then why must we endure our normal lives?  Why can we not use the best aspects of games in igniting human happiness and incorporate them into our societies to improve the quality of life of everyone?

I’m less than 100 pages in so far, and I have mixed feelings.  The book does a pretty good job of highlighting interesting findings in positive psychology, and the points made in that regard I feel are spot on.  I would read a short paragraph and think to myself, “You know…you’re right.  That *does* make my happy.”  On the other hand, I think the book really stretches to apply the research findings to the field of video games.  The author, being a game designer, clearly has a bias in this sense, but that also drives her passionate prose style.  She spends a lot of time explaining the mechanics of certain video games like SMB 2 and Tetris, but then fails to really drive home her point that video games are the ideal medium in which to engineer human happiness.  It’s almost like she thinks it is self-evident that games and positive psychology go hand in hand.

Again, I’m only a little ways in, so maybe I’m trying to jump ahead to points she makes (or doesn’t make) later.  I just learned recently that my good friend Seth read this book and wrote a paper on it for a class, so I’m eager to chat with him about it.

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