GDC: Time to get SuperBetter

As part of the Game IT summit of this year’s conference, there was a special Health IT session Monday afternoon, featuring presentations for integrating games with health-focused IT.

Headlining this session was the unveiling of SuperBetter, Jane McGonigal’s latest real world-based game experience.  SuperBetter stems from a previous game McGonigal made to boost her own resilience while sidelined with a concussion in 2009.  After finding that many people were adapting the game to fit their own health issues, McGonigal created SuperBetter as a tool for increasing resilience in the face of major stresses in one’s life.

McGonigal introduced the project as a game designed to measurably increase speed of recovery, perseverance, self-efficacy, curiosity, optimism, and a sense of hope.  It attempts to do this by rewarding players for completing different resiliency exercises and quests, which come in four types – body (increase physical ability to withstand stress and heal faster), mental (increase focus and mental prowess), emotional (increase ability to activate positive emotion when needed most), and social (in which one draws upon other individuals or the community).  McGonigal had the audience members complete an example for each category, including:

  • Physical – Take 3 steps forward from your current position OR hold two clenched fists over your head for 5 seconds
  • Mental – Snap your fingers exactly 50 times OR count back from 100 by 7’s
  • Emotional – look out the nearest window OR do a YouTube search for “baby [your favorite]”
  • Social – shake hands for 6 seconds or send a quick thank you text/e-mail

McGonigal emphasized that these tasks are based on actual scientific findings; for example, shaking hands for 6 seconds allows for the release of oxytocin, which serves to promote social closeness and attachment. By building physical, mental, emotional, and social resiliency, McGonigal suggested that SuperBetter can help people be more successful when trying to do something hard, to stay up late, to reach out to someone interesting, or to take risks, and to be more likely to recover quickly upon failing at any of these activities.  SuperBetter’s design also includes “Secret Labs”, through which is can help players track changes in their levels of hope, optimism, perseverance and more over time.  Additionally, though McGonigal’s didn’t spend much time delving into the particular scientific bases of SuperBetter, she did mention that the game is currently undergoing clinical trials and assured the audience in attendance that the four simple resiliency exercises performed during her talk translated to 7.6 more minutes added to their lives.

On the other hand, the direct health implications for a game-based intervention were more explicitly discussed by Dr. Ranjiv Kumar, the second presenter at the Health IT session and head of the ShapeUp project.  For a summary of ShapeUp and its success to date, tune in for my upcoming post on games for behavior change.

GDC: Time to get SuperBetter by Jim Cummings, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

One Response to “GDC: Time to get SuperBetter”

  1. In case you didn't know, the SuperBetter site is now live! I'm setting up an account and will be posting a review in the next few weeks!

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