Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Play games for ten extra years of life

Video games are always present in the media, usually because the so-called shoot-'em-up games are under suspicion of boosting violent behaviour in young adults. However, in previous posts we also learned that they can be very beneficial because they boost individuals’ creativity, attention, and visual thinking. Now what if online video games could even prolong our lives?

This is what game designer Jane McGonigal speaks about in her TED Talk. She says that online games
  • bring friends together that would otherwise not be in touch with each other.
  • are a good way of spending time with your kids.
  • have been shown to boost mood and happiness.
  • help us express our true selves through avatars.


In her talk, she tells her own story about when she had to rest her head for three months after a concussion and avoid everything that would trigger its activity: no reading, no writing, no work, no exercise, no alcohol, no caffeine, and so on. It happened to her what happens to one in three people who suffer traumatic brain injury: she had suicidal thoughts.

But she decided that she wanted to get over these thoughts by using an online game. She knew from research that games boost creativity, determination, optimism, and make it easier for people to ask others for help. The way they do this is they make one adopt a secret identity, find allies, battle the evil guys, and activate power-ups. And she realised that even though she was still in pain, she stopped suffering. The same thing happened to other people with very serious and incurable diseases. She says the game helped with post-traumatic growth.

What are the factors that lead to post-traumatic growth? Jane McGonigal summarises the four aspects of resilience: physical, mental, emotional, and social resilience. To achieve these four aspects of resilience, however, we do not need to suffer traumatic brain injury. We can train them, and it does not even require a lot of effort. To achieve physical resilience, do not sit still. To become mentally resilient, train your willpower by tackling tiny challenges without giving up. To get emotional resilience, provoke powerful positive emotions. Finally, to achieve social resilience, get strength from friends, family, colleagues, and others around you by expressing gratefulness, or, even better, by physically touching them.
Research shows that those who regularly boost the four types of resilience (physical, mental, emotional, social) live ten years longer than others. Games seem to be doing exactly this. And therefore, she comes to the conclusion that games can boost our resilience, help us experience post-traumatic growth and give as ten extra years of life.

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