” Won’t you regret the time you spent playing games at the end of your life?”
In answer to this frequently asked question, game designer Jane McGonigal decided to look at the research undertaken in hospices. It turns out, the top 5 most frequently expressed regrets of the dying are: I wish I hadn’t worked so hard, I wish I’d stayed in touch with friends, I wish I’d let myself be happier, I wish I had the courage to express my true self and I wish I’d lived a life true to my dreams instead of what others expected.
McGonigal states games can help us fulfil these cravings. Hundreds of millions use games such as words with friends to stay in touch. Ground breaking trials show online games can outperform pharmaceuticals in fighting anxiety and depression. Stanford research indicates playing a game with an Avatar, or indication of the self we wish to be, changes us.
Gaming can also make us tackle tough challenges with more optimism. McGonigal draws on an example from her own life, when she was bedridden for three months following a severe concussion. When she experienced the suicidal ideations common after traumatic brain injuries, she decided to turn it into a game. In, ‘Jane the Concussion Slayer’, McGonigal utilised allies such as her husband and sister and collected power-ups to make herself feel better, including going for a walk. She recreated the game online, renaming it, ‘Super Better’ and it was used successfully by people with cancer, chronic pain and other ailments.
Many people use a traumatic episode as a springboard to get stronger and better. The top five changes they report are a change in priorities, ability to understand themselves better, improved ability to follow their dreams and increased closeness with friends. McGonigal wondered if we could get these benefits without the trauma.
It turns out there are validated activities to build up four types of resistance. Walking on the spot or making hands into fists overhead boosts physical resilience. Counting back from 100 can improve mental resilience. Searching online for an image of your favourite baby animal can add emotional resilience. Sending a quick mail to friends via Facebook or Twitter boosts social resilience.
Using McGonigal’s calculations, people who regularly feed these 4 types of resistance live an average of ten years longer. If you listened to this talk and worked on yours, you will already live another 7.5 minutes. Why not use this time to build up your power-ups and multiply this time.