TED Weekends: Gaming for life

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Jane McGonigal shares how a video game helped pull her out of depression following an injury. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Jane McGonigal shares how a video game helped pull her out of depression following an injury. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

The old and tired stereotype: a 20-something man sits on the couch in his parent’s basement, his shirt untucked and chin unshaven, as he excitedly pounds the buttons on a video game controller rather than getting a job. The obvious truth: video game enthusiasts are men and women, of all ages, and the grand majority of them are highly productive members of society. In fact, video games can actually help people grow — both socially and psychologically.

This is the idea that video game designer Jane McGonigal addresses in her TED Talk, “The game that can give you 10 extra years of life.” Jane McGonigal: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life Jane McGonigal: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life In the talk, McGonigal shares her game SuperBetter — designed after being bedridden for a long period of time following a severe concussion — which aims to help people recovering from injuries and surgeries find connection with others and with their inner sense of optimism. Centered around McGonigal’s talk, this week’s TED Weekends on the Huffington Post addresses the power of video games to improve well-being. Below, read three essays from TED Weekends to pique your interest.

Jane McGonigal: What Gamers Can Teach Us

I’m going to tell you a secret.

The TED Talk you’re about to watch probably seems like a pretty ordinary talk, maybe even a pretty good one, given the standing ovation at the end. But here’s the truth that almost no one knows: This talk, my talk, went down in TED history as the single biggest disaster to ever happen at TED.

That’s right. My TED Talk is officially the biggest disaster in TED history! And you know what? I couldn’t be prouder of that fact. I think it’s time to tell the true story behind “The Game That Can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life.”

I was halfway through delivering my TED Talk, trying to convince the audience that they would have fewer regrets on their deathbed if they spent more time playing Angry Birds. It sounds ridiculous, I know! But as I explain in the talk, people who spend more time playing video games actually have a wealth of psychological resources, like mental and emotional resilience, that can be used to tackle tough challenges in their real lives — with more creativity, determination, motivation and social support. Read the full essay »

Maggie Jackson: Let’s Not Forget That Beyond Gaming, There’s Life

We’d just begun a family vacation this summer, when my teenager woke up barely able to swallow, with a throat raw and sore. I took her to the nearest ER, where the wait was blessedly brief. A triage nurse whisked into the examining room with a laptop on wheels and began questioning my daughter. Name? Weight? Pain on a scale of 10? The nurse was efficient, yet something was missing. During a 10-minute checklist, she never once looked at the case — the bundle of humanity (and mystery) that is my daughter.

Was I expecting too much of this moment? Checklists in medicine can prevent infections. Taking 10,000 steps a day is now a global health movement. Shaking hands for six seconds boosts oxytocin, the “trust” hormone, Jane McGonigal recounts in her TED Talk on how simple game-based tricks can better our lives. Anything daunting or monumental — health, medical diagnosis, resilience — demands entry points. The lists and formulas and tips that we adore point our muddled selves in the right direction, making small but powerful changes possible. Now portable and automated, they can help the fragile roots of good habits take hold. Read the full essay »

Tom Chatfield: Can Video Games Alter Society … in a Good Way?

When I’m talking to people about why video games matter, I like to quote one of Woody Allen’s finest pieces of advice: “Eighty percent of life is showing up.” More than almost anything else, showing up matters. You can’t find your talent for football if you never touch a ball. You can’t make friends if you avoid other people. You can’t get the job if you don’t apply. You’ll never write that screenplay if you don’t start typing.

Games are about everyone showing up. In classrooms full of students who range from brilliant to sullen disaffection, it’s games — and often games alone — that I’ve seen engage every single person in the room. For some, the right kind of play can spell the difference between becoming part of something, and the lifelong feeling that they’re not meant to take part. Read the full essay »