Kill Cravings by Letting Video Games Hijack Your Visual Cortex
Here's a simple mind hack: If you've got a craving, let Tetris satiate it.
Jane McGonigal, PhD, is a senior researcher at the Institute for the Future and the author of The New York Times bestseller Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. McGonigal's newest book is titled SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient--Powered by the Science of Games. Her work has been featured in The Economist, Wired, and The New York Times and on MTV, CNN, and NPR. She has been called one of the top ten innovators to watch (BusinessWeek), one of the one hundred most creative people in business (Fast Company), and one of the fifty most important people in the gaming industry (Game Developers Magazine). Her TED talks on games have been viewed more than ten million times.
Jane McGonigal: If you have a craving — it could be for junk food; it may be for a cigarette — there’s a really effective way to diminish it using games. Multiple studies have shown that playing a game like Tetris or Candy Crush Saga can actually, within three minutes, reduce your craving by 25 to 50 percent in our latest study. And here’s how it works. When you have a craving, you’re really imagining the thing that you’re craving. It’s vivid in your mind’s eye. You’re picturing it what it’ll feel like when you eat it or when you get what you want. The more vividly you imagine it in your mind’s eye, the stronger the craving. Well if you play a video game that really preoccupies the visual processing center of your brain, then your brain can’t picture the thing you’re craving. So if you pick a game that has very intense visuals, but kind of visuals that when you walk away from the game and close your eyes you’ll still see the puzzle pieces falling or you’ll be having flashbacks to the candy color pieces swapping, that’s the kind of game that has been shown in studies to effectively reduce cravings and even though, you know, 25 to 50 percent craving — it doesn’t take it away completely. But studies have shown that that is enough to help you really make a smarter choice. It gives your willpower a fighting chance just to get that little bit of reduction.
Jane McGonigal's latest study shows that playing a game like Tetris or Candy Crush Saga can actually reduce cravings by 25 to 50 percent in a matter of minutes. The SuperBetter author and award-winning game designer explains how a craving for coffee, chocolate, or a cigarette can sit vividly in your mind's eye, tempting and tormenting you until you crack. Playing a game like Tetris forces your brain to replace your vices with essential information about the game: visuals, gameplay, etc. So if you've got a weak will and need help fighting off bad habits, try letting video games be your buddy.
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