Jane McGonigal: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life

Speaker

Jane McGonigal is an American game designer and author who advocates the use of mobile and digital technology to channel positive attitudes and collaboration in a real world context.

Summary

Jane is a game developer and commonly hears it said that games are a waste of your life, and you’ll regret playing them when you die. She reviewed studies on the regrets of dying people heard by hospice workers and they tended to be the following.

  • I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
  • I wish I’d spent more time with friends
  • I wish I’d let myself be happier
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my true self
  • I wish I’d lived a life true to my dreams instead of what others expected of me

Games can help with all of these, by playing with others you can be with friends, and virtual avatars allow people to imagine themselves as a more idealized ‘true’ version of themselves. Also, none of the comments were that people wish they’d played fewer games.

Jane spent some time with brain damage after being knocked unconscious. This gave her suicidal thoughts – since she couldn’t do anything and convinced herself there was very little reason to live. She developed a mental Role Playing Game to stave off suicidal thoughts – recruiting her family as allies to battle the bad guys (triggers to stress that caused her pain), and complete simple quests that let her be productive in small ways- cuddling her dog or walking around. By focussing on her alter ego and completing the basic powerups she quickly felt better mentally. She released the rules for the game online as “Super Better”, and many terminal patients responded saying it made them a lot happier and focussed.

People who survive traumatic or near-death experiences often go through post traumatic growth: they clarify their goals, become happier and more productive. They quickly develop traits counter to the regrets of the dying – they live a life without regret. Jane was looking at these benefits, and how people can gain them without going through trauma in the first place. They are related to 4 types of resilience, which can be trained by 4 quests from Super Better.

  • Physical resilience: eg walk 3 steps or put your arms up: physical activity lets the body heal better and withstand more stress.
  • Mental resilience: by snapping fingers 50 times or counting backwards from 100. Mental activity gives you more willpower.
  • Emotional resilience: look through a window or google image search on your favourite baby animals. You can dramatically improve your health by feeling 3 positive emotions for every negative one.
  • Social Resilience: shake someone’s hand or send a message to a friend. This gives you more strength from others.

People who regularly boost these resiliences gain 10 more years of life, and should build the mindset to live that life without regrets. 10 years may finally give you the chance to play some games too!

My Thoughts

Jane promises a lot from her game. The activities at the end seem to be aimed at sick people – giving them a quest to achieve something. I can see this working – by focusing on small goals and victories that will improve their health it will help mentally. I don’t know if a healthy person will get a strong resilience benefit from the same activities, or whether those same traits can be developed by more advanced activities.

Nonetheless, it is fascinating to see that resilience can improve your perspective and length of life.

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