Lauren Goode

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Can Playing More Games Make Your Life “SuperBetter”? Jane McGonigal Thinks So.

Jane McGonigal, gaming evangelist and author of the New York Times best-seller “Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World,” claims that her new gaming program will not only help people improve their lives — it will help them live longer, too.

In a SXSW session called “A Crash Course in Becoming SuperBetter,” McGonigal promised attendees at least 7.5 extra minutes of life with her new online and mobile game, SuperBetter.

In the game, “bad guys” are things like mental blockers, headaches, and pressure. Quests are things to accomplish in the next 24 hours, future boosts are events players indicate they’re looking forward to and power packs are packaged game solutions that help players accomplish certain goals, for a fee. The score of the game is based on resilience, which fluctuates depending on how players are feeling on any given day or how engaged they are in the game.

McGonigal referred to a recent report that came out on the top five regrets dying people have. Things such as “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard,” “I wish I’d stayed in touch with friends” and “I wish I had let myself be happier” topped the list. McGonigal acknowledged that “I wish I’d played more video games” was nowhere on the list — but said she hears the potential for it.

Games, she said, can bring families together, help facilitate social interactions and alleviate depression and stress.

Essentially, McGonigal is looking to eradicate the image of the unproductive, couch-potato videogame player and show how such games can actually be beneficial.

Some 72 percent of American households play computer and video games, according to recent data from the Entertainment Software Association; 68 percent of parents believe that game play provides mental stimulation or education, while 57 percent believe games encourage their family to spend to time together.

McGonigal cited Google’s social goal management platform, a new app called Everest and the Lift project, an “application for unlocking human potential through positive reinforcement” from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, as evidence that life improvement programs are using game mechanics and taking shape across digital and mobile platforms.

McGonigal also said she doesn’t believe playing virtual games means people aren’t embedded in reality. The opposite of virtual isn’t real, she said; the root of virtual is “virtus, which meant excellence, potency, efficacy.”

McGonigal’s career in the gaming world began in 2009, after she suffered a brain injury that left her feeling suicidal. She developed a game called Jane the Concussion Slayer — playing off the popular TV show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” — and uploaded a video of the game to YouTube. Shortly afterward, she said she began receiving letters from people who were applying the principals of her recovery game to other challenges, such as depression, PTSD, quitting smoking, knee surgery, and even chemotherapy.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus