Skip to content


I guess I just like liking things

When game designer Jane McGonigal found herself bedridden and suicidal following a severe concussion, she had a fascinating idea for how to get better. She dove into the scientific research and created the healing game, SuperBetter. In this moving talk, McGonigal explains how a game can boost resilience — and promises to add 7.5 minutes to your life.

I haven’t seen many TED Talks, probably fewer than five, but that description on this one got me all intrigued. Normally if a video on the Internet is longer than  three minutes  it’s too long (and this from a guy who has held several 12+ hour-long movie marathons), but I gave this one a chance and I’m glad I did. For what it’s worth, she promises you in the talk that she’s giving you 7.6 minutes of life, so the 19.5 minute runtime only leaves you negative 11.9 minutes.

I can’t sit here and say “Man, she’s right on, this is the best thing that’s ever happened” but I can say two things:

  1. It helped her and that’s awesome. It also seems to be helping other people, and that’s pretty cool, too.
  2. I am completely intrigued by the idea of applying game theory to real life.

So, achievements, right? In the gaming world they are kind of a boiled-down version of rewards you get in real life – in the game you get 20 points for killing 500 aliens, but in real life you get a raise for completing X number of assignments well.  That’s simplifying things, but it’s kind of the same deal. A lot of real life rewards are intangible – a good feeling, a slightly stronger friendship, not tiring out as quickly – and I can’t help but wonder if a visible/tangible reward or notification might not help. The lightshow and sound you get when leveling up in World of Warcraft elicits praise from anyone around you and also a little quickening of your own pace.

I know there have been apps and games that have tried to apply some of those ideas to real life (Chore Wars, for example), but they’re not automatic so it doesn’t feel the same. And, yes, I realize there isn’t a way to really make them automatic just yet, and no, I’m not necessarily sure it’d be a good thing, anyway. Reducing life to a series of tasks might replace joy with a sense of accomplishment, which works for some people, but not all of us. I think I just wonder if somehow having the option would be fun.

Mostly I just wanted to share that video with you. I don’t have answers on game theory applied to life, but it si certainly something that intrigues me.


Tags: ,

Written by: