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reality is broken

The Lydians and Buffalo

In the beginning of her book McGonigal writes of a people who lived three thousand years ago called the Lydians. The Lydians were faced with an unceasing famine that threatened their existence. In order to overcome living with such little resources, they created games to distract them from their less than ideal situation. It took them eighteen years to get through it, but they did so successfully with the help of games. I couldn’t help but think of Buffalo as a modern day Lydian society. Our city has had a rough couple decades. Ever since the steel industry crashed in America and Buffalo became a ‘Rust Belt City’, we have struggled to find ways of attracting outsiders and boosting our economy. How have we dealt with such problems? Why, we surrounded ourselves with games, more specifically hockey and football. People who visit Buffalo and athletes who have played on our teams will tell you that Buffalo is home to some of the most die-hard fans in the country. Thousands show up at the gates of the Ralph Wilson Stadium to tailgate when they open at 9 am, and then sit outside in freezing temperatures for hours to cheer their favorite team on. What happens to the Bills on Sunday directly affects the mood of the entire city on Monday. The same goes for the Sabres. When we have a solid team, the atmosphere of the whole city bumps up a couple notches. We will never stop supporting our teams (no matter how sub-par they might be), but hopefully they won’t have to distract us from the city’s decrepit situation in the future.


Another instance I thought of where games served for more than just entertainment comes in the form of a movie titled Life is Beautiful. Set in 1930’s Italy, the bubbly main character Guido and his loving wife and son are condemned to a concentration camp. To shield his son from the horrors of their situation, Guido tells him that they have entered a competition in the form of a game where one must hide from the men in green suits and never make noise. Points are rewarded for things like not complaining about the food and not asking lots of questions. At the end of the game, the team with the most points wins a tank. Through this method, brave Guido saves his son from the holocaust. Spoiler alert, his son gets his fiero moment in the form of a rescuing American tank raiding the camp.



4 thoughts on “The Lydians and Buffalo

  1. I think you’ve made a really interesting point about Buffalo! Recently, I feel like Buffalo is truly becoming a revitalized city. We have such a unique culture and history, from our Olmstead Parks, to prestigious museums, and the stunning architecture of Downtown and North Buffalo. While a lot of people recently have been infuriated over the segregation in Buffalo, it seems to have created pockets of distinct culture – similar to the very separate Polish and Irish communities of the past. I currently live on the West Side which has a strong Hispanic population that has created a cultural atmosphere different than the South Buffalo Irish one I grew up in. Aside from just throwing ourselves into hockey and football, I feel that to make-up for past economic failures Buffalonians have found dozens of other outlets to ‘make reality better’. While McGonigal suggests gaming is the manner by which people can increase their engagement with the world, I think Buffalo as whole exemplifies an overall, well-rounded, and unique manner of engaging with the world. By taking what someone or something has to offer, and amplifying that, people can take pride in, be inspired by, and engaged with the world around them.

    Posted by emmajani | May 24, 2013, 11:38 am
    • Let me offer a local example of how gaming might work. Emma, you mention the museums in Buffalo. As you might know, as good as the museums may be, they might all hope for more visitors. Gaming is one way that might happen. Many of the world’s best museums now have smartphone-based games that give museum goers another way to interact with the space. An educational game designed primarily for students going to a museum n a field trip might inspire those students to drag their parents back for a return visit. A well-designed game might link museums.

      Posted by Alex Reid | May 24, 2013, 12:52 pm
      • I do think that integrating some kind of game into museum membership would be an interesting solution, or aide, to the problem of a decrease in membership and visitation. The Buffalo Museum of Science is working on creating more interactive exhibits to replace the older, view-only exhibits. While I’m partial to the old-school form of exhibits, I understand that with the rise in technology younger and younger children are exposed to, interactive exhibits are rather necessary to boost visitation. At the very least, even scavenger hunts are fun and educating! With so many interesting artifacts no longer on display because of the new interactive exhibits which rely heavily on television screens and pushing buttons, maybe a virtual, or (even better!) a non-virtual scavenger hunt through the museum’s archives and ‘back-stock’ would encourage more visitors to become members. There’s a lot of possibilities with integrating games into museums, all of which would likely be beneficial to maintain the prestige of the institution.

        Posted by emmajani | May 24, 2013, 1:03 pm
      • The idea of integrating games into museums has been implemented in numerous science and children’s museums across the country. By providing a thought-provoking and engaging environment in which you can interact with the exhibits, museum-goers are more likely not only to enjoy their visit but continue coming. Now if we were to take that and apply it to one of Buffalo’s most famous spots, the waterfront, wouldn’t it be possible to rejuvenate the social scene? The waterfront real estate is teaming with potential and possibility. It just needs someone to take it by the horns and get it done. By developing an interactive environment in which people can participate in games (such as amateur hockey, skating, kayak races, carnivals with games, and more), we could attract a whole new population to the waterfront sector of Buffalo.

        Posted by jmlemons | May 24, 2013, 11:06 pm

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