Jane McGonigal believes gaming can save the world. That’s right, playing video games. Her research and game development with the purpose of inspiring millions to solve real life problems through training received in virtual reality has reached 30 countries world wide. When she received a serious blow to the head one day in her kitchen, by standing up into an open cabinet, the concussion that resulted nearly took away her will to live and could have stalled her life mission, but instead, she turned it into a game. By using the important principles she has learned from studying and participating in games, such as adopting a ‘secret identity’, engaging others on your ‘team’, stating your ‘mission’ and defeating ‘the enemy’, McGonigal was able to recover from the serious concussion that was inhibiting her previously joyful life. You see, Jane’s concussion left her unable to do certain tasks such as read, think and write – everyday things which made her happy. By making her healing journey into a game, she was able to work with the things that made her condition worse (such as drinking coffee) and implement strategies(power-ups) that helped her feel better, such as cuddling her dog or baking.
The concussion was a transformational experience for Jane, for her miraculous year-long journey of healing inspired her to create the virtual reality game SuperBetter, which has helped over 250,000 people heal from addictions, overcome anxiety, deal with cancer, lose weight, relieve chronic pain and treat depression. Jane McGonigal turned what could have been in to a tragic concussion, into a healing story for hundreds of thousands of people who have used the game to increase self-confidence, express themselves more fully, reach out and collaborate with others and just feel happier while regaining health. Studies have agreed with McGonigal, showing that participating in games, for just 30 minutes per day, can out-perform pharmaceuticals in treating depression, by lifting mood and increasing serotonin production.
Jane also creates real life games to help people manage other real life problems beyond health issues. She has invented games to help people learn to deal with situations such as an oil shortage, poverty, climate change and economic disaster by collaborating globally with other players. Jane believes that if half the worlds population would play games for one hour per day, we would become a more courageous, ambitious and committed people, better equipped to deal with and solve today’s problems. By playing her games, individuals learn how they would respond to major Earth, societal and economic changes and take an active role in translating their ‘game behavior’ into real life solutions in their daily life. In her ground-breaking book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World she goes into greater depth as to why games work and what qualities they cultivate in us.
On this path already prior to her concussion, Jane McGonigal was even more deeply moved through her injury to see virtual reality games create miraculous change and healing in the lives of individuals and societies globally. She explains that studies reveal regular ‘gamers’ (largely teenagers) have cultivated four major qualities that make them unique. They have urgent optimism, knowing the ‘impossible’ could be possible; they have been able to weave a tight social network of other gamers, worldwide; they experience what is being termed ‘blissful productivity’, meaning they are happier gaming than if they were sitting around doing nothing. Finally, they have learned to cultivate ‘epic meaning’ in their lives, engaging in outrageous missions and creating great accomplishments for themselves seen nowhere else in their reality. This all equals, according to research, super-empowered hopeful individuals that believe they are possible of changing the world – the virtual world that is. McGonigal wishes to translate ‘virtual’ into the actual world, by offering games which prepare minds to accomplish world changing tasks that may actually be implemented by their collective minds in the future, and today.
Written by: Stasia Bliss