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  • I'm a gamer, so I like to have goals.

  • I like special missions and secret objectives.

  • So here's my special mission for this talk:

  • I'm going to try to increase the life span

  • of every single person in this room

  • by seven and a half minutes.

  • Literally, you will live seven and half minutes longer

  • than you would have otherwise,

  • just because you watched this talk.

  • Okay, some of you are looking a little bit skeptical.

  • That's okay, because check it out --

  • I have math to prove that it is possible.

  • And it won't make a lot of sense now.

  • I'll explain it all later,

  • just pay attention to the number at the bottom:

  • plus-7.68245837 minutes

  • that will be my gift to you if I'm successful in my mission.

  • Now, you have a secret mission too.

  • Your mission is to figure out how you want to spend your

  • extra seven and a half minutes.

  • And I think you should do something unusual with them,

  • because these are bonus minutes. You weren't going to have them anyway.

  • Now, because I'm a game designer, you might be thinking to yourself,

  • I know what she wants us to do with those minutes,

  • she wants us to spend them playing games.

  • Now this is a totally reasonable assumption,

  • given that I have made quite a habit of encouraging people

  • to spend more time playing games.

  • For example, in my first TEDTalk,

  • I did propose that we should spend 21 billion hours a week

  • as a planet playing video games.

  • Now, 21 billion hours, it's a lot of time.

  • It's so much time, in fact, that the number one unsolicited comment

  • that I have heard from people all over the world

  • since I gave that talk, is this:

  • Jane, games are great and all, but on your deathbed,

  • are you really going to wish you spent more time playing Angry Birds?

  • This idea is so pervasive -- that games are a waste of time

  • that we will come to regret -- that I hear it literally everywhere I go.

  • For example, true story: Just a few weeks ago,

  • this cab driver, upon finding out that a friend and I were in town

  • for a game developer's conference,

  • turned around and said -- and I quote --

  • "I hate games. Waste of life. Imagine getting to the end of your life

  • and regretting all that time."

  • Now, I want to take this problem seriously.

  • I mean, I want games to be a force for good in the world.

  • I don't want gamers to regret the time they spent playing,

  • time that I encouraged them to spend.

  • So I have been thinking about this question a lot lately.

  • When we're on our deathbeds, will we regret

  • the time we spent playing games?

  • Now, this may surprise you, but it turns out

  • there is actually some scientific research on this question.

  • It's true. Hospice workers,

  • the people who take care of us at the end of our lives,

  • recently issued a report on the most frequently expressed regrets

  • that people say when they are literally on their deathbeds.

  • And that's what I want to share with you today --

  • the top five regrets of the dying.

  • Number one: I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

  • Number two: I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

  • Number three: I wish I had let myself be happier.

  • Number four: I wish I'd had the courage to express my true self.

  • And number five: I wish I'd lived a life true to my dreams,

  • instead of what others expected of me.

  • Now, as far as I know, no one ever told one of the hospice workers,

  • I wish I'd spent more time playing video games,

  • but when I hear these top five regrets of the dying,

  • I can't help but hear five deep human cravings

  • that games actually help us fulfill.

  • For example, I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

  • For many people, this means, I wish I'd spent more time

  • with my family, with my kids when they were growing up.

  • Well, we know that playing games together has tremendous

  • family benefits.

  • A recent study from Brigham Young University

  • School of Family life reported that parents who

  • spend more time playing video games with their kids

  • have much stronger real-life relationships with them.

  • I wish I'd stayed in touch with my friends.

  • Well, hundreds of millions of people

  • use social games like FarmVille or Words With Friends

  • to stay in daily contact with real-life friends and family.

  • A recent study from [University of Michigan] showed

  • that these games are incredibly powerful

  • relationship-management tools.

  • They help us stay connected with people in our social network

  • that we would otherwise grow distant from,

  • if we weren't playing games together.

  • I wish I'd let myself be happier.

  • Well, here I can't help but think of the groundbreaking clinical trials

  • recently conducted at East Carolina University

  • that showed that online games can outperform

  • pharmaceuticals for treating clinical anxiety and depression.

  • Just 30 minutes of online game play a day

  • was enough to create dramatic boosts in mood

  • and long-term increases in happiness.

  • I wish I'd had the courage to express my true self.

  • Well, avatars are a way to express our true selves,

  • our most heroic, idealized version of who we might become.

  • You can see that in this alter ego portrait by Robbie Cooper

  • of a gamer with his avatar.

  • And Stanford University has been doing research for five years now

  • to document how playing a game with an idealized avatar

  • changes how we think and act in real life,

  • making us more courageous, more ambitious,

  • more committed to our goals.

  • I wish I'd led a life true to my dreams,

  • and not what others expected of me.

  • Are games doing this yet? I'm not sure,

  • so I've left a question mark, a Super Mario question mark.

  • And we're going to come back to this one.

  • But in the mean time, perhaps you're wondering,

  • who is this game designer to be talking to us

  • about deathbed regrets?

  • And it's true, I've never worked in a hospice,

  • I've never been on my deathbed.

  • But recently I did spend three months in bed, wanting to die.

  • Really wanting to die.

  • Now let me tell you that story.

  • It started two years ago, when I hit my head and got a concussion.

  • Now the concussion didn't heal properly,

  • and after 30 days I was left with symptoms like nonstop headaches,

  • nausea, vertigo, memory loss, mental fog.

  • My doctor told me that in order to heal my brain,

  • I had to rest it.

  • So I had to avoid everything that triggered my symptoms.

  • For me that meant no reading, no writing, no video games,

  • no work or email, no running, no alcohol, no caffeine.

  • In other words -- and I think you see where this is going --

  • no reason to live.

  • Of course it's meant to be funny,

  • but in all seriousness, suicidal ideation is quite common

  • with traumatic brain injuries.

  • It happens to one in three, and it happened to me.

  • My brain started telling me, Jane, you want to die.

  • It said, you're never going to get better.

  • It said, the pain will never end.

  • And these voices became so persistent and so persuasive

  • that I started to legitimately fear for my life,

  • which is the time that I said to myself after 34 days --

  • and I will never forget this moment --

  • I said, I am either going to kill myself

  • or I'm going to turn this into a game.

  • Now, why a game?

  • I knew from researching the psychology of games for more than a decade

  • that when we play a game -- and this is in the scientific literature --

  • we tackle tough challenges with more creativity,

  • more determination, more optimism,

  • and we're more likely to reach out to others for help.

  • And I wanted to bring these gamer traits to my real-life challenge,

  • so I created a role-playing recovery game

  • called Jane the Concussion Slayer.

  • Now this became my new secret identity,

  • and the first thing I did as a slayer

  • was call my twin sister -- I have an identical twin sister named Kelly --

  • and tell her, I'm playing a game to heal my brain,

  • and I want you to play with me.

  • This was an easier way to ask for help.

  • She became my first ally in the game,

  • my husband Kiyash joined next,

  • and together we identified and battled the bad guys.

  • Now this was anything that could trigger my symptoms

  • and therefore slow down the healing process,

  • things like bright lights and crowded spaces.

  • We also collected and activated power-ups.

  • This was anything I could do on even my worst day

  • to feel just a little bit good,

  • just a little bit productive.

  • Things like cuddling my dog for 10 minutes,

  • or getting out of bed and walking around the block just once.

  • Now the game was that simple:

  • Adopt a secret identity, recruit your allies,

  • battle the bad guys, activate the power-ups.

  • But even with a game so simple,

  • within just a couple days of starting to play,

  • that fog of depression and anxiety

  • went away. It just vanished. It felt like a miracle.

  • Now it wasn't a miracle cure for the headaches

  • or the cognitive symptoms.

  • That lasted for more than a year,

  • and it was the hardest year of my life by far.

  • But even when I still had the symptoms,

  • even while I was still in pain, I stopped suffering.

  • Now what happened next with the game surprised me.

  • I put up some blog posts and videos online,

  • explaining how to play.

  • But not everybody has a concussion, obviously,

  • not everyone wants to be "the slayer,"

  • so I renamed the game SuperBetter.

  • And soon I started hearing from people all over the world

  • who were adopting their own secret identity,

  • recruiting their own allies, and they were getting "super better"

  • facing challenges like cancer and chronic pain,

  • depression and Crohn's disease.

  • Even people were playing it for terminal diagnoses like ALS.

  • And I could tell from their messages and their videos

  • that the game was helping them in the same ways

  • that it helped me.

  • They talked about feeling stronger and braver.

  • They talked about feeling better understood by their friends and family.

  • And they even talked about feeling happier,

  • even though they were in pain, even though they were tackling

  • the toughest challenge of their lives.

  • Now at the time, I'm thinking to myself, what is going on here?

  • I mean, how could a game so trivial intervene so powerfully

  • in such serious, and in some cases life-and-death, circumstances?

  • I mean, if it hadn't worked for me,

  • there's no way I would have believed it was possible.

  • Well, it turns out there's some science here too.

  • Some people get stronger and happier after a traumatic event.

  • And that's what was happening to us.

  • The game was helping us experience

  • what scientists call post-traumatic growth,

  • which is not something we usually hear about.

  • We usually hear about post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • But scientists now know that a traumatic event

  • doesn't doom us to suffer indefinitely.

  • Instead, we can use it as a springboard

  • to unleash our best qualities and lead happier lives.

  • Here are the top five things that people with

  • post-traumatic growth say:

  • My priorities have changed. I'm not afraid to do what makes me happy.

  • I feel closer to my friends and family.

  • I understand myself better. I know who I really am now.

  • I have a new sense of meaning and purpose in my life.

  • I'm better able to focus on my goals and dreams.

  • Now, does this sound familiar?

  • It should, because the top five traits of post-traumatic growth

  • are essentially the direct opposite of the top five regrets of the dying.

  • Now this is interesting, right?

  • It seems that somehow, a traumatic event can unlock our ability

  • to lead a life with fewer regrets.

  • But how does it work?

  • How do you get from trauma to growth?

  • Or better yet, is there a way to get all the benefits

  • of post-traumatic growth without the trauma,

  • without having to hit your head in the first place?

  • That would be good, right?

  • I wanted to understand the phenomenon better,

  • so I devoured the scientific literature, and here's what I learned.

  • There are four kinds of strength, or resilience,

  • that contribute to post-traumatic growth,

  • and there are scientifically validated activities

  • that you can do every day to build up these four kinds of resilience,

  • and you don't need a trauma to do it.

  • Now, I could tell you what these four types of strength are,

  • but I'd rather you experience them firsthand.

  • I'd rather we all start building them up together right now.

  • So here's what we're going to do.

  • We're going to play a quick game together.