Resilience, games, and post-traumatic growth – an UP Experience Post

Jane McGonigal is Director of Game Research & Development at Institute for the Future and Chief Creative Officer at SuperBetter Labs. She is author of the New York Times best seller, Reality is Broken.

Ms. McGonigal spoke at this year’s The UP Experience to the topic, "How Gaming Will Change the World." She began by quoting “the number one question my friends, family, and audiences ask me,” which is: "Jane, on your deathbed, won’t you regret having spent so much time playing games?"

McGonigal decided to research the actual regrets of people interviewed on their deathbeds. Their top five regrets were, "not enough time spent: 1) with family, 2) with friends, 3) feeling happy, 4) better understanding their true selves, and 5) living true to their dreams."

McGonigal argues that game designers are actually “happiness engineers,” and are experts in making difficult tasks engaging. McGonigal stated, "when you turn a challenge into a game, you engage your innate abilities of creativity, determination, and requesting help." For those who don’t like the metaphor, “game,” she offers the alternative, "SuperBetter."

McGonigal’s model for challenge as a game is: “1) having a secret identity and a mission, 2) having allies to help you, 3) having bad guys to fight, and 4) having the ability to ‘power up’ to help you and your allies fight the bad guys.”

McGonigal gave a personal example of gaming helping her own happiness. "A while back I suffered a head concussion. I had constant head pain and was under doctor’s orders to restrict all activities over a period of several months. I told myself, Jane, this is either going to kill you or you are going to turn it into a game.” So McGonigal turned it into a game called, “Jane the Concussion Slayer" (in homage to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") and asked for the help of family and friends. "And it worked."

Researching this personal experience further, McGonigal discovered that she had gone through a period of “posttraumatic growth”, similar to many others who had gone through a life threatening experience. “Posttraumatic growth often results in a clearer sense of life priorities, feeling closer to others, better understanding oneself, and having a clearer sense of purpose and focus.”

McGonigal wondered if there were an alternative to trauma to reach this kind of growth. “I discovered that there are four contributors that can be developed to result in similar benefits: physical, mental, emotional, and social resilience.” This is the approach that she calls, "SuperBetter."" SuperBetter has already engaged hundreds online in improving their health and happiness."

McGonigal has created a web page with links to the connections between gaming and well-being at: Show Me the Science! Resilience, games, post-traumatic growth, and more.

The UP Experience is an annual thought-leader conference held one day each October in Greater Houston. The next conference is scheduled October 24, 2013.
Image courtesy
See also

The UP Experience 2012 speaker announced – JANE MCGONIGAL
The UP Experience


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