I love-love-love Jane McGonigal's beautiful new book Reality Is Broken. It's a fascinating blend of psychology, philosophy, history and technology. In large part the book is about what it means to be human - how we learn, how we interact with each other, what we want and need and contribute to the world around us.
Her TED talk is a great introduction to Jane and her ideas. But as with most movies, the book is even better. Here are a few excerpts to get you started:
By removing or limiting the obvious ways of getting to the goal, the rules push players to explore previously uncharted possibility spaces. They unleash creativity and foster strategic thinking.
In a good computer or video game, you're always playing on the very edge of your skill level.
Why do unnecessary obstacles make us happy? (read the book to find the answer)
The opposite of play isn't work. It's depression.
Within the limits of our own endurance, we would rather work hard than be entertained.
The game must be carefully designed so that the only way to be rewarded is to participate in good faith... rather than on providing compensation for doing something that would otherwise feel boring, trivial or pointless.
And yes, I'm totally going to play Top Secret Dance Off. I hope you'll come play too.