I've been running through a pretty significant library of extra-curricular reading lately (thank you, Kindle app).  It's been awesome.  I read "Here Comes Everybody," then "Groundswell," both of which were solid reading for any social media buff.  Then I moved on to "The Networked Nonprofit," which I am declaring to be compulsory reading for anyone who does anything in the world and wants to do it smarter, simpler, and more effectively.  I dug "The Starfish and the Spider" for the concept, not so much for the hands-on.  (It's actually a good companion piece to "Networked Nonprofit.")  And now I've caught the gaming bug - I'm just getting into "Reality is Broken."  And it's awesome.
Jane McGonigal is quickly becoming a new hero of mine.  She's smart, and talented, and often funny.  She's simultaneously grounded and hopelessly optimistic.  She uses the word "gamefulness."  She's so cool!

McGonigal is out there saying that there are things that are broken in the world, and maybe the lessons we learn from games can help us fix them.  Maybe making our lives more game-like will add meaning to our lives.  (Just read the book.) 

I don't care if she's "right."  She makes me want to believe.

Games and art make life worth living.   Ok, I can buy that; game on.
Alan (my also-a-rock-star husband whose work you can check out on his website, alanjaysufrin.com) and I just finished up watching a documentary of sorts on Hulu called "Gamers."  Predictably, it delved into the world of online social gaming - especially MMOs or Massive Multi-player Online games - looking at such hugely popular examples as World of Warcraft and EverQuest.

The doc itself was, eh, okay.  While sweet, it failed to capture the humor, texture, and nuance of this wildly influential subculture and the people who subscribe to it with such fervor.   It often presented too many opinions simultaneously and there were several sequences that seemed like they had been much more fun to film than they ever would be to watch.  But it was only an hour and, in that time, it gave a thoughtful glimpse at some interesting characters - both on- and off-line.  (Some much better examples are the now classic "Trekkies" and its sequel and, my personal favorite, "King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters."  Now there are a couple of docs with some real heart.)

Nonetheless, the thing that always strikes me about films like "Gamers" is how utterly accepting these communities are.  The people highlighted are white, black, straight, gay, transgender, Jewish, pagan, Evangelical, heavy, bespectacled, borderline anorexic, pot-smoking, day-job working, mothers, orphans, in cities, on farms, and wearing Dilbert ties and wielding swords.  No one cares who you are as long as you conduct your level 70 battle dwarf honorably.  And that's amazing.

I had friends who gamed in high school, and I've even been to GenCon once or twice, but it was never a world I felt drawn to.  That air of escapism, of avoiding the real world... it just never appealed to me.  For many it is a retreat, but for some, social gaming acts as a testing ground.  Alliances, even friendships are formed and tested.  There's emotional investment, and a true social aspect to play.  That's what fascinates me about it now.    

In the coming months I will certainly take time to explore social gaming more as it relates to the power of collaboration in the broader field of social media.  In the meantime, I welcome any thoughts on gaming, gamers, or better documentaries available on Hulu.