TED Talks: The Game That Can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life
The TED (Technology, Education, Design) Talks are part of a global conference that is held every year that incorporates and celebrates the ever expanding potential of knowledge within fields of science and technology. Speakers from the tops of their fields, come from around the world to speak with the audience about innovative ideas, or simply new ways to approach old theories.
Jane Mcgonigal is an American game designer who serves as the Director of Game Research & Development at Institute for the Future and the Chief Creative Officer at SuperBetter Labs. She has spoken at multiple TED conferences, and highlights the importance of gaming in relation to not only happiness, but how they are making us and the world as a whole a better place. She says game developers are on a humanitarian mission to help and improve the quality of life for all who play.
She initially talked in 2010 how Gaming Can Make a Better World, so in 2012 she was invited back to speak about how games can actually make us live longer.
So how does a pastime that many unfairly consider a waste of time, translate into a longer healthier life? After all, what person on their deathbed, wishes they had spent more time playing Angry Birds?
Although she admits that it is unlikely that any person has wished for more time spent playing video games, Jane claims that video games actually fulfill the top 5 regrets people confess to while in hospice
The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying were:
- I wish I had not spent so much time working
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
- I wish I had let myself be happier
- I wish I had the courage to express my true self
- I wish I had lived a life true to my dreams, instead of what others expected of me
She begins to breaks down this list and show us how gaming can relate to each particular one, but not before explaining where her inspiration for this topic came from.
After a serious brain injury, she began to develop suicidal ideations. During her recovery period, she created a video game called "Jane the Concussion Slayer" in order to "heal her brain" with her family. After spending time playing, she began to stop suffering and began to use this technique to help others. She distributed and renamed the game Super Better and has watched how it has transformed peoples lives. Cancer patients, players with chronic diagnoses , even those with terminal illness were using her game to improve their quality of living.
She says that the same things that helped her during the darkest year of her life, and those who suffer with terminal diseases, would also help with those who are are living with regret.
I wish I had not spent so much time working
She argues this basically translates into spending more time with family. A recent study conducted by Brigham Young University shows that a relationship between a father and daughter strengthens considerably more if they play video games together.
Researchers found that girls that played video games with their parents (mainly their fathers – not many mothers questioned admitted they played video games) were better behaved, felt more connected to their families, felt less aggressive, and demonstrated decreased levels of internalizing, which can lead to depression.... “When parents play video games with their daughters, they may be sending a myriad of messages. First, parents may show that they are willing to engage in an activity that is important to daughters. Second, playing video games can represent quality time between a daughter and a parent, especially when such play involves conversation between parent–child.”
People who voice regret at spending time at work (or in this case, away from their family) will see that video games are a great way to connect with your kids and show them that you care.
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
Gaming has become a social past time. From simple free to play games as apps to giant AAA games, video games are entwined with the ever an expanding social media presence. All games and platforms let us talk, share, and play with not only people we know in real life, but allow us to become friends with strangers we have never met. Physical boundaries in real life are erased online, allowing us to play and chat with close friends even if they are half way around the world.
Gaming is a powerful relationship management tool. It allows us to connect and stay in contact with individuals we might otherwise grow distant with.
I wish I had let myself be happier
Another study, conducted by East Carolina University, demonstrated how games even outperformed pharmaceutical remedies in treating clinical depression and anxiety.
Just 30 minutes of gameplay was enough to show a dramatic change in mood and long term increases in happiness as a whole.
I wish I had the courage to express my true self
Gaming provides a more obvious solution to this problem. The creation of avatars allows you to become whoever you want. Whether it is spending hours carving intricate details in their face, or merely wearing gaudy clothes and armor, gamers love to craft how we want others to see us.
In fact, a Standford study shows that playing with an idealized avatar actually changes how we see ourselves. This leads to people actually shaping themselves around their avatar and exhibiting more confidence and ambition in regards to goals.
A point she fails to mention that helps her case is, online anonymity allows social barriers to be dropped and let people truly express themselves. Whether this is simply being able to talk in social settings, to having the confidence to take charge within a group. Although I admit, it may serve as a double edged sword, the mere fact that we see such a dramatic change in people's behaviors once they are hidden behind an online identity, shows that people are hiding what they truly feel and believe in real life.
I wish I had lived a life true to my dreams, instead of what others expected of me.
Ever since we huddled around camp fires, we told stories of great heroes, and ferocious beasts. We put ourselves in the shoes of the protagonists and lived vicariously through them. Today we do the same, except now we are able to control these heroes.
With games, we can become the legend. We have the power to save or even destroy. A realm of controllable fantasy lets us live our dreams.
But how do video games let us live longer, healthier lives?
Going back to the her game Super Better, she shows how those who play are going through what psychologists dub "Post Traumatic Growth". How one identify if they are experiencing PTG? Well they would say:
- My priorities have changed. I am not afraid to do what makes me happy.
- I feel closer to my friends and family
- I understand myself better, I know who I truly am
- I have a new sense of meaning and purpose
- I am better able to focus on my goals and dreams
Yes, the exact opposite of what those hospice patients were saying earlier. Games as a whole are able to recreate that same feeling and sense of well being that would come from growth from a traumatic event, without actually going through a traumatic event.
Dumbing down the hard sciences for us, she explains that there are four kinds resilience that people can strengthen over the course of their life that promote healthy living.
Super Better helps one build their 4 different resilience (Physical Strength, Mental/Willpower, Emotional, Social) in order to improve life. In fact the science shows that people who regularly practice strengthening these attributes over the course of their lives, live on average, 10 years longer than average.
Even the audience during the talk showed a substantial improvement over the course of the lecture by simply participating in fun but silly games that worked those four traits.
She ends her lecture with the idea that video games as a whole, work to strengthen these attributes and allow gamers to live healthier, longer lives.
So maybe I can't save a princess in real life, I am just glad to know that by doing what I love, I am able spend more time alive doing it.
If you feel like Super Better could help you in any way, it is free to play online, and even available as an app.