Gaming Your Way to a Happier Life

1 May

I read an interesting article in the New York Times Sunday Styles section this week.  The article was entitled, “She’s Playing Games with your Lives”, and featured Jane McGonigal, a Ph.D. whose goal it is to make the world better through gaming.  SuperBetter is her online game that seeks to help you lose weight, save energy, cope with chemo treatments, or cut back on your drinking.

Ms. McGonigal argues people (worldwide) spend three billion hours a week gaming.  It’s obviously a pastime people enjoy, so why not use this energy to save the world, or at least your life?

According to Bruce Feiler, McGonigal’s book, “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World” focuses on how gaming techniques can “fix what is wrong with the real world.”  McGonigal’s gaming theory was criticized  by writers such as William Saletan who lambasted her idea that gaming could make hauling garbage or emptying hospital bedpans fun. “This work isn’t designed for your pleasure or stimulation,” he wrote. “It just needs to be done.”

This is where Be Brave. Lose the Beige enters the debate.  Be Brave. Lose the Beige encourages people to live their lives creatively and with fun.  Of course, we have duties and responsibilities that must be performed on a daily basis.  Some of these duties are mind numbingly boring.  Anything we can do to make our tasks more enjoyable contributes to living a more fulfilling life.  For example, driving to work each day can be monotonous.  Varying the route or listening to books on tape can make that drive a little more fun.  Preparing meals is rarely a looked forward to activity.  Varying the menu and/or recipes can literally add a little more spice to life.

That’s why I support Jane McGonigal’s efforts to turn drudgery and difficulties into games.  Even a little creative thinking can produce seismic changes in our lives.  McGonigal suffered a serious and debilitating illness.  Her slow recovery process included earning points for walking a little further each day and other such mending steps.  “The main thing that worked was I stopped feeling helpless.”  She said.  “It made me feel more optimistic.”

The world feels a little scared and pessimistic right now.  Anything we can do to create more optimism is worth a try.

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