Can We All Be Happy?


When I started reading McGonigal’s book, all I could think about was the TED talk that McGonigal gave in which she promised the people in the audience each seven extra minutes of life just by playing video games. Through her research, she proved that the design and structures of games were thought out in such a way that it boosted the psychological happiness of those who engaged in the challenges presented in these games. I found this very intriguing. I always wondered how my boyfriend got “addicted” to playing 2K14 or Assassin’s Creed. I would sit there and watch him complain about doing homework and instead, use that time to go play his video games. It made no sense to me. Common sense would tell him that he needed to do his homework so that he could pass the class. Granted this was a class he didn’t like, nonetheless, he needed this class to fulfill a requirement for his degree. But no, his common sense was telling him to use his time doing something he actually enjoyed; something that made him happy. After reading McGonigal’s book, all of this made sense to me. In her book, McGonigal discuss’s Csikszentmihalyi’s research. She writes, “Games teach us how to create opportunities for freely chosen, challenging work that keeps us at the limits of our abilities, and those lessons can be transferred to real life” (pg 37). McGonigal tries to prove in her book that humans would be more happy if they chose tasks that interested them rather than engage in tasks that forced them to do things that weren’t satisfying to them. McGonigal writes that humans like good hard work (paraphrasing). People like to be challenged with tasks that they find gratifying. Although I agree with McGonigal’s theory and her research, I disagree that everyone can be happy. Just like everyone can’t be rich or famous. If everyone that wanted to be an actor became an actor, there wouldn’t be enough people to do all the other jobs that are necessary. I’m sure that janitors don’t love cleaning toilets or that all babysitters love getting spit up on. Life is a game of chance, and sometimes, we are stuck in difficult situations in which we don’t want to be apart of. But is McGonigal saying that we should find ways of turning whatever situation we are in into a game to be happy, or is she saying that we should choose our own paths in life and by doing that, we will be happy? I think its a combination of both. I think its possible to find happiness in whatever our situation is and if we make life a game, we can increase our chance of being happy.


4 thoughts on “Can We All Be Happy?”

  1. I wonder about this idea of happiness. There’s a difference between saying “I feel happy right now” and saying “I am happy with my life.” The former is a more fleeting feeling that comes and goes. Most people experience the former on and off most days. E.g. I’m happy because the traffic was light on the way to work today or a saw something funny on Facebook or a got through a difficult challenge in my videogame. The latter has more to do with a sense of overall contentment and meaningfulness. It’s a judgment as much as it is a feeling. That’s the tough one… learning how to live, finding meaningful work but not being defined by what you do for a job (Europeans say they work to live while American life to work), and deciding what is important in the end. Does gaming give us insight into that?

  2. Happiness can be measured in various ways in my opinion. Some consider money, possessions, how many friends they have as all being a measure to happiness! Happiness can come and go, it happens everyday. Gaming may result in a roller coaster of emotion! When we’re winning at the game we’re ecstatic and when we’re losing, well we’re the opposite. Life can sometimes depict art, art in the sense of a video game. So, when we’re winning and we finally conquer the video game its over right, we move on to the next challenge. Much like life.

  3. I agree. Just as we cannot all be professional actors, I believe that in order to succeed, we should experience the difficult tasks in life that make us unhappy to push ourselves to achieve goals. Sometimes, when looking at homework or a task at hand, you do not know where to begin and do not even have the drive to start. This is where McGonigal’s research comes to mind in which people choose to play a video game over their work because they have a path to follow in order to successfully reach their goal. This fulfills them, making them feel more productive. This productive experience is also rewarding because it is fun for them. While games can help increase this happy, rewarding feeling, it also should not overrule goals or activities in reality that can create this feeling for us. I believe that “I am happy right now” comes from the rewarding feelings we gain from video games while “I am happy with my life” comes from people achieving rewards in reality.

  4. I don’t think McGonigal’s point was to make everyone happy all the time. That’s physically impossible, endorphins run out and soon we’d all be bored of being happy. I think what she’s saying is find happiness where you can get it, and that elation with life (no matter how small) can keep you going with the more arduous tasks of living. For instance, there may be janitors that love their jobs, but if they don’t, they may love going home and watching their favorite TV show, or reading their favorite book, gaming, etc which provides them with enough happiness to get up the next morning and work hard for possibly a future promotion, which would give him real life happiness. I think that’s McGonigal’s point. Don’t just constantly work in hopes for a big payout, treat yourself here and there to make the in between just as enjoyable as the reward.

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