After suffering a concussion that left her debilitated from doing work and severely depressed, Jane McGonigal decided to do what she does best: design a game. One of the leading researchers in game design and a senior researcher at Stanford’s Institute for the Future, McGonigal mapped out a course of action that allows “players” to tackle any challenge in their lives using the science and principles of video games. Implement these seven game-changing tips to make your life SuperBetter!
Failure helps build your resilience.
In video games, players fail 80 percent of the time — or somewhere between 12-25 times an hour. Because of this, video game players actually have higher levels of emotional and physical resilience than the general public. Studies have shown that playing Tetris for just three minutes while feeling a craving can reduce the intensity of that craving by 25 percent. (Less visual games like Scrabble didn’t work because they didn’t occupy the same receptors). Games, just like meditation, trigger “deep focus,” and just 30 minutes of doing either activity three times a week can improve your heart rate variability, one of the best measures of physical resilience.
Take on challenges that build self-efficacy.
To increase your confidence in your ability to achieve a goal, you must accept a goal, make an effort to achieve that goal, and improve. A video game allows for this process to happen because it increases dopamine, which results in faster learner and and more of a willingness to accept challenges.
Be more gameful by challenging yourself.
To gamify your life and take on a more challenge-oriented mindset, design quests to tackle your challenge or goal. Research shows that “fun framing” can increase willpower. Researchers found that when they told a group of participants they had an hour to use as they wished before a math test, the participants didn’t start studying until 60 percent into the preparation hour. Those who were told they were about to play a math “game” started preparing almost right away.
Collect and activate power-ups to boost your abilities.
Any video game player will tell you that “power ups” are essential to victory. While no one in real life is going to hand you an “extra player”, you can still use power ups to gamify your life. A power-up in real life is “any positive action you can take, easily, that create[s] a quick moment of pleasure, strength, courage or connection for you.” For example, drinking a glass of water is a simple way to boost your physical resilience.
Design strategies to defeat your bad guys.
The more strategies you have to defeat your bad guys, the more flexible you will be in your response. The five main strategies are avoid, resist, adapt, challenge or convert. Avoidance tends to be the easiest but also least effective strategy. Resisting bad guys can be much more helpful so long as you don’t internalize blame for the bad guys’ appearance. The more psychologically flexible patients are, the faster they return to work, the more they exercise, and the fewer pain symptoms they report over time. But the less flexible they are, the more likely it is that back pain will continue for months or even years to interfere with their ability to recover.
Allies can help you succeed.
Every hero needs allies and that’s true in gamifying your life as well. Receiving support from others has a number of benefits, including boosting your immune system, lowering your stress levels and strengthening your cardiovascular system. Any game played simultaneously by two people results in a synchronization of your emotions. This creates an upward spiral of positivity because every time we sync up our bodies, we feel a microburst of human connection. If you have trouble reaching out to allies in person, an online community can also serve as great support and give you the confidence to eventually reach out in person.
Adopt a secret identity.
Research shows that examining our own experiences can result in “self-reflection paradox” where instead of gaining increased clarity, we get caught up in other feelings or turmoil. Adopting a secret identity, however, can help create the distance needed to observe the problem like an outsider would. While it might seem weird to talk about yourself in third person, the science shows it can create better willpower, result in greater engagement in constructive problem solving and lower stress levels. Scientists have found that people who are more aware of their strengths more successfully achieve their goals.