Jane McGonigal, PhD, is perhaps the world’s most famous expert on gaming. In 2010 she made a wildly popular (more than 3 million views) TED talk. It’s called “Gaming Can Make a Better World,” and in it she explains the personal and societal benefits of gaming. McGonigal’s first TED Talk helped inspire me to work in the world of video games and helped set me on the path to creating Pixelkin. In her latest TED Talk (which has more than 4 million views), McGonigal asserts that gaming can make you live longer. (She has math!)
We’re also pretty fond of McGonigal’s other projects, of which there are many. As her website’s bio says, “She specializes in games that challenge players to tackle real-world problems, such as poverty, hunger and climate change, through planetary-scale collaboration.”
Superbetter, A Game to Help You Meet Your Goals
One of her projects is a game called Superbetter, a game to help build “personal resilience.” (It’s available on the iPhone and the computer—it’s not on Android yet.)
Here’s a drawing of how it works:
Basically, you set goals for yourself, and Superbetter makes tracking your progress into a game. The idea is that, with Superbetter encouraging you, you’ll be motivated to improve your life more and more.
Games to Help with PTSD
A more current project is her campaign to publicize recent research that says games can interfere with trauma flashbacks. The idea is based on the report “Can Playing the Computer Game ‘Tetris’ Reduce the Build-Up of Flashbacks for Trauma? A Proposal from Cognitive Science” from Oxford University.
In her blog, McGonigal says: “If you experience or witness a trauma, play a pattern-matching video game such as Tetris or Candy Crush Saga as soon as possible, ideally within the first six hours after the event. Play the game for at least 10 minutes. It may help to play the game again immediately before going to sleep that same night.”
McGonigal asks everyone to spread the word about the research. So here we are, doing that!
McGonigal says, and I want to emphasize, that it’s important to note that playing games (even Candy Crush) is no substitute for medical care. However, although I’m no expert on PTSD, it seems unlikely that a game of Candy Crush or Tetris could hurt.
Games for Change
McGonigal is a busy person. Besides giving TED Talks, writing blogs, doing research, and designing games, she’s on the board of Games for Change, an organization that “facilitates the creation and distribution of social impact games that serve as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts.” Games for Change organizes a conference every year, where people who design games that promote social good get together and exchange ideas. The Games for Change Festival 2014 starts April 22 in New York City. Jane McGonigal will be there giving another one of her (no-doubt) riveting talks.