McGonigal frames Chore Wars as a Vehicle for Extrinsic Motivation and Social Training

In part two of Reality is Broken, McGonigal informs readers about the alternative reality game Chore Wars, a game based off traditional fantasy role playing character skills and abilities.  McGonigal frames Chore Wars within the home setting of families and roommates.  The premise of Chore Wars transforms people into characters who get “experience points [XP], virtual gold, treasure, avatar-power ups, or points” for cataloging their ability to complete household chores (120).  McGonigal tells readers about how her and her husband play Chore Wars, which transformed their home into a cleaner environment within nine months (121).

While at one moment McGonigal’s use of Chore Wars appears to be a wonderful intrinsic force within her wife, she still supports other gamers using extrinsic rewards.  She states how:

…Chore Wars isn’t just about tracking your avatar development; it is also about earning real rewards.  The       game’s instructions encourage households to invent creative ways to redeem the virtual gold in real life.  You could exchange the gold for allowances if you’re paying with your kids, or for rounds of drinks for roommates, or coffee runs for workmates…. (121)

When McGonigal says that Chore Wars is about “earning real rewards,” she relates these rewards to “allowances,” “drinks,” and “coffee” (121).  These three things are extrinsic objects in the material world (which could be her reality, the verdict is still out on what reality is by Chapter Seven).  If Part One of Reality is Broken develops the idea of motivating people past extrinsic rewards, McGonigal should not use extrinsic rewards to support the application of her ideals at the beginning of Part Two.  The creators of Chore Wars realize how extrinsic rewards operate. In fact, McGonigal mentions how “The game’s instructions encourage” this type of behavior, but she does not realize how Chore Wars’ instructions conflict with her ideology.


Insight into Foucault

Insight into Foucault

On a larger scope of McGonigal’s Reality is Broken, her examples of games like Chore Wars reflect the social training engraved into society.  Foucault in Discipline and Punish demonstrates the historical methods of power exercising discipline and punishment through training.  Moving into the 17th and 18th centuries, society increased its use of training to maintain control over subjects.  Social powers are able to control the body, the physical subject that acts in reality.    Subjects become trained through schools, home life, clubs, organization and this training places them into a complex system of power relations (31).  When McGonigal mentions how Chore Wars can be used to maintain a clean house, readers begin to realize that Chore Wars is a type of social training.  For example, if parents (power) can train their children (subjects) to complete a task, they are in effect controlling how their children act.  On one hand Chore Wars may be used to get children to wash dishes and live in a clean house.  But on the other hand, Chore Wars enacts a form of training used to maintain the docile bodies of subjects.  These children are learning less about the value of keeping a house clean; in fact they are learning the subtle ways of being trained and getting rewarded for completing socially acceptable tasks.  Training subjects to maintain socially acceptable norms (clean house/rewards) is not a fault of McGonigal. It is just funny to think that she is saying anything new about how to train subjects.


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