About Penn Reading Project

The Provost, the Council of Undergraduate Deans, and the Office of College Houses and Academic Services are pleased to announce that Jane McGonigal's Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World will be the text for the 2011-12 Penn Reading Project (PRP). On the afternoon of Sunday, September 4, 2011, groups of first-year students and faculty leaders will join together to discuss the book as part of New Student Orientation for the Class of 2015.  

In Reality Is Broken, Dr. McGonigal focuses on the major role that video and computer games play in our lives. By her count, more than 174 million young Americans are regular gamers, and the average young person will spend 10,000 hours playing by age 21. But far from finding these statistics frightening, McGonigal focuses on the positive role that gaming plays in social, mental and cultural development. Virtual realities have the power to make us happy and provide exhilarating rewards -- and more important, these rewards can be harnessed in our daily lives to improve our outlook, reasoning skills and social interactions. As the New York Times summarizes Reality Is Broken's theme, "The Internet’s unprecedented power, its ability to envelop and interact with us, is a blessing, not a threat. We can build worlds in which nice guys finish first."

This year’s PRP book is the kick-off for Penn’s Year of Games: Body & Mind, a project that involves multidisciplinary inquiry across Penn’s twelve schools and many resource centers. Among the participating entities are the School of Engineering, Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative, Cinema Studies, the Penn Museum, and many other departments and programs. Year of Games programs will include lectures and symposia with celebrated scholars, conferences, site visits, etc., in an on-going exploration of the role games play in a wide variety of academic disciplines. Game playing connects the physical and the mental, and so mind and body will be central to the year’s conception of games PRP, now entering its 21st year, was created as an introduction for incoming freshmen to academic life at Penn.

Past Penn Reading Projects have included Rose George's The Big Necessity, Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture, Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia – as well as Thomas Eakin’s painting, The Gross Clinic. Information about the Penn Reading Project and its history can be found here.