Author leveraged video game knowledge to save her life

Updated 4/26/2018 11:15 AM
  • Vickie Austin

    Vickie Austin

When I first began working, I would often confide in my dad about my career challenges. A college professor, he would listen, empathize and then encourage me to "treat it like a game!"

Jane McGonigal would agree. The author of "SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully," McGonigal leveraged her knowledge as a video game designer to literally save her own life. Challenged by a brain injury that wouldn't heal, McGonigal found herself contemplating suicide. At that point she decided to create a game called "SuperBetter," and she asked her twin sister Kelly to be her ally. Using elements she knew as a game designer -- quests, allies, "bad guys" and "power-ups" that get us up and moving -- she found her way back to health. Her journey resulted in the book SuperBetter, and she invites us to play along.

Steeped in research, the book provides a framework to empower each of us to take on our own challenges with a "gameful" approach. Whether we are facing obstacles at work or at home, creating a game around those challenges gives us quantifiable resilience in every area of our lives: physical, mental, emotional and social.

The author presents the data on why games make us "SuperBetter" and how to be gameful ourselves. Adopting a secret identity, finding our allies and going for the epic win not only move us closer to our goals but, according to research, can boost our life expectancy by ten more years.

Games can help us tackle tough challenges with creativity, optimism, determinism and the ability to ask others for help, according to Ms. McGonigal. Pick up the book, watch her TED Talk and then log onto to create your own game. My dad was right: whatever your quest, treating it like a game can help you live a more fully connected -- and longer -- life.

• Vickie Austin is a business and career coach, professional speaker and author of Circles of Gold: Honoring Your Network for Business and Career Success. She hosts "Biz Books Review" the third Tuesday of every month at the Wheaton Public Library (and you don't have to read the book to attend!).

You can reach Vickie at, 312-213-1795, and connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@Vickie_Austin).

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