I’m either going to kill myself, or I’m going to turn this into a game. After the four most miserable weeks of my life, those seemed like the only two options left.
It was the summer of 2009, I was about halfway through writing my book, and I got a concussion. It was a stupid, fluke accident: I was standing up, and I slammed my head straight into a cabinet door I didn’t realize was still open. I was dizzy, saw stars, and felt sick to my stomach. When my husband asked me who the president was, I drew a blank.
I knew I was trapped in that cycle. And the only thing I could think of that could possibly make me optimistic enough to break it was a game.
It was a strange idea, but I literally had nothing else to do (except watch television and go on very slow walks.) I’d never made a healthcare game before. But it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out my alternate reality theories in a new context. I might not be able to read or write very much, but hopefully I could still be creative.
What follows? A secret identity, a network of allies, a series of missions, some barista-assisted caffeine modulation, adventures at the perfume counter, a pair of purple leather stiletto boots—and a simple but powerful multiplayer game called SuperBetter.
Man. What if, in fifth grade, they taught you how to design simple game mechanics to help yourself get, or stay, healthy? What if this was common sense?
I just finished reading Thomas Goetz’s The Decision Tree—coming in early 2010—which highlights, among many other things, the spooky effectiveness of simply tracking your progress. Choose a goal, keep track of how you’re doing—do nothing else differently—and you’ll still end up in better shape. You’ll weigh less, have a stronger heart, or slay your concussion faster. Seems a bit Heisenberg, yeah? Also seems a bit like magic—but it works.
So put that on your shelf next to Jane’s book and all together you’ve got a pretty insanely powerful new paradigm for health—maybe for life—that I hope is going to seem like common sense some day soon.