Why do we make believe?

I just listened to an incredible compilation of TED Talks on… gaming and playing. It talked about the benefits for development, social interaction, even survival. It was incredibly interesting and got me thinking.

What I liked most was that one of the speakers, a lady named Jane Mcgonigal (a gamer, who also does a lot of research into gaming), had gone through a difficult period in her life while recovering from a serious head injury and had come up with a fun way to rest up and get better. It’s called Super Better. The idea is that you create an identity (she was Jane the Concussion Slayer) and you recruit allies (close friends and family) to play this game towards getting better. In it you can ‘power up’ by doing therapeutic things like stroking your dog or going for a short walk and you have to avoid the ‘bad guys’ at all costs (for her that was alcohol, bright lights, anything that would prolong her healing). So you make your healing/ achieving your goal into a game.

You can use this for anything – losing weight, fighting anxiety, or depression, working towards a goal. The reason this works so well is that people were found to be more resilient in a game context – more likely to stay in character and not give in to the ‘bad guys’.

I wanted to write about this because I thought it was so awesome. I love the idea that an essential part of our development, and beyond, is based on whether we spend enough hours mucking around with friends. I know people who spend hours playing video games, others who make anything into a game (the example which always makes me smile is the game they play when getting into the lift at work), for all those people there are more again who play sports every day and more again who bravely enter an unknown realm to engage in a conquest for hours on end while playing Dungeons and Dragons. It’s this non-denominational thing that everyone is capable of doing as long as they’re not told to ‘just grow up’ too often. And I love the idea of adults, stressed out by having to pay their mortgage and kids and all the other stuff that happens when you grow up, feeling a little bit later every time the whole family gets down on the floor to play with lego.

It also made me think of ways that people are able to succeed in their lives. Sure, there are people who’s dogged determination is enough to get them where they need to be but for most of us, slip ups are inevitable. Life is hard and achieving anything worthwhile is even more so. I’m definitely going to be thinking of ways to integrate this new way of playing/ succeeding at goals into my own life. If nothing else, it’s another way to look more positively at something which may seem incredibly hard otherwise.



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