Can a Video Game Change Your Life?

Jane McGonigal: One of the questions that I’m asked a lot is – what is it about games that we love so much?  What is it about games that makes us want to spend seven billion hours a week collectively playing them?  And in all of my research, the really big idea that I think is true for pretty much every gamer is that we love to be challenged.  We love to tackle these unnecessary obstacles that require us to be more creative, or be more strategic, or be more heroic.  And these games really bring out those heroic qualities in us. 

One of the things that games teach us to do really well is to hang in there with a tough challenge.  Industry research shows that gamers actually spend 80 percent of the time failing when they’re playing their favorite games.  So four out of five times they don’t finish the mission, they don’t level up, they don’t get the score they want – they have to keep trying.  And having that resilience in the face of failure is definitely a gamer quality – that we are able to learn from our mistakes, that we are willing to try again.  That kind of resilience is probably the number one thing that games cultivate in us when we play them.

I actually had an opportunity to put some of this research to the test in my own personal life about two years ago when I suffered a mild traumatic brain injury.  I had a concussion, and it didn’t heal properly.  And it was probably the toughest time in my life trying to recover – trying to get my skills back at reading and writing, which I wasn’t able to do, and to deal with the pain, and the headaches, and the nausea, and feeling really disconnected, from my friends and family.  And I thought to myself, well, all the research shows that games promote positive emotions, and strengthen our social connections.  Maybe I can turn my recovery into a game.  And then I would be able to tap into those heroic qualities, but use them to face a very real problem.

So I invented a game called SuperBetter and I started trying to really live like a gamer as I recovered.  I started looking for power-ups – so things in my real life that would help me feel stronger or get better and do them as many times a day as I could.  I would identify the bad guys – so these are the things that I couldn’t do anymore that I was supposed to do less of while my brain was healing.  And then I would report battles, and did I win or fail, and how tough was the battle today?  And then I had allies.  I invited my friends and family to play with me and gave them specific missions – ways that they could help me, calling me, checking in, giving me quests to undertake, giving me advice – and that was really useful because suddenly I felt like they could understand what I was going through better, that they had really specific ways to help, that they didn’t just have to worry about me or be anxious, but they could really get involved with my recovery.

So fast-forward two years later, and I’ve actually been able to make SuperBetter available to anybody else who might want to play it.  We have a start-up company called SuperBetter Labs, and the game is now available for free.  And what’s been fascinating to me, is watching people show up and play it –  not just for concussions and brain injuries, but to play it for losing weight, and depression, and anxiety, and quitting smoking, and getting over a bad breakup, and all of these things that are tough and real challenges that we face, that maybe we can face better with that heroic optimism and curiosity that we have when we play our favorite games.

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

 

Why Lil Dicky made this star-studded Earth Day music video

"Earth" features about 30 of the biggest names in entertainment.

Culture & Religion
  • Lil Dicky is a rapper and comedian who released his debut album in 2015.
  • His new music video, "Earth," features artists such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Ed Sheehan, Kevin Hart, and Leonardo DiCaprio.
  • All proceeds of the music video will go to environmental causes, Dicky said.
Keep reading Show less

After death, you’re aware that you’ve died, say scientists

Some evidence attributes a certain neurological phenomenon to a near death experience.

Credit: Petr Kratochvil. PublicDomainPictures.net.
Surprising Science

Time of death is considered when a person has gone into cardiac arrest. This is the cessation of the electrical impulse that drive the heartbeat. As a result, the heart locks up. The moment the heart stops is considered time of death. But does death overtake our mind immediately afterward or does it slowly creep in?

Keep reading Show less
Big Think
Sponsored by Lumina Foundation

Upvote/downvote each of the videos below!

As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in.

Keep reading Show less