WATCH NOW: What Gamers Can Teach Us

It was the strangest thing. A gasp went up in the audience. Just when I was finding the courage to discuss the darkest moment in my life, we were literally plunged into darkness together.
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I'm going to tell you a secret.

The TEDTalk you're about to watch probably seems like a pretty ordinary TEDTalk, maybe even a pretty good one, given the standing ovation at the end.

But here's the truth that almost no one in the world knows: This talk, my talk, went down in TED history as the single biggest disaster to ever happen at TED.

That's right. My TEDTalk is officially the biggest disaster in TED history! And you know what? I couldn't be prouder of that fact.

I think it's time to tell the true story behind "The Game That Can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life."


I was halfway through delivering my TEDTalk, trying to convince the audience that they would have fewer regrets on their deathbed if they spent more time playing Angry Birds.

It sounds ridiculous, I know! But as I explain in the talk, people who spend more time playing video games actually have a wealth of psychological resources, like mental and emotional resilience, that can be used to tackle tough challenges in their real lives -- with more creativity, determination, motivation and social support.

The idea of gamer resilience isn't just an academic obsession for me. It's something I've experienced personally. I've had to fight off suicidal thoughts after a traumatic brain injury -- and I used my gamer strengths to do it.

I was explaining this to the TED audience -- that I'd reached my lowest point, when I said to myself: "I'm either going to kill myself, or I'm going to turn this into a game" -- when suddenly, everything in the theater went pitch black.


Photo credit: Jane McGonigal.

It was the strangest thing. A gasp went up in the audience. Just when I was finding the courage to discuss the darkest moment in my life, we were literally plunged into darkness together.

It took a moment to figure out what was going on. The power was out. And not just in our theater. It was in the entire neighborhood. A huge part of Edinburgh was experiencing a blackout.

I was ushered offstage. I had to fight back tears. Would I get to finish my talk? I had been preparing for months. I had practiced it every single day for weeks. I had wanted so badly for it to go perfectly. And now, it wasn't even clear if I would be able to get back up onstage. Even if I could, would I be able to pull myself back together and get through it?

Remember, this isn't just a disaster -- this is the Biggest Disaster in TED history. -- Jane McGonigal

But then I realized: I'm a gamer. And that means I'm resilient. I'm not afraid to try again, to replay a level, to get back up after being shoved down. If anyone could handle this kind of a challenge, it would be me.

I would get back up there and show them exactly how a gamer tackles a real-life obstacle: with relish.

Two hours later, the lights came back on in Edinburgh. I took the stage again, and I gave the second half of my talk. I got two standing ovations -- first when I walked back on, and again at the end. It was wonderful. It seemed everything would be okay -- the TED team would just splice the two halves together, to make a complete talk.

Except, that's not what happened.

Remember, this isn't just a disaster -- this is the Biggest Disaster in TED history.

Five hours after I'd pulled it together and finished my talk, I got a frantic text message from the TED organizers. It turned out they had lost the video of the first half of the talk in the power outage. There was no record of my talk, the talk I had worked harder on than any other talk in my life. They asked me if I would be willing to give the first half of the talk one more time, now a full eight hours after I'd first gotten on stage.

Having to stand back up and pour my heart out all over again wasn't easy. But you know what? It just gave me the chance to prove my thesis with even more gusto.

I stood up there for a third time and represented what gamers are all about. We aren't afraid of failure. We can handle unexpected obstacles. In fact, we find joy in the opportunity to win under the toughest conditions.


There's an even happier ending to the Biggest Disaster in TED history. The game I teach you how to play in this talk -- SuperBetter -- has gone on to help more than 250,000 players tackle their own health challenges, from losing weight to sleeping better. And I'm most proud of this update: Psychology researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recently conducted a randomized controlled trial of SuperBetter for depression. They found that the game helped players eliminate six symptoms of depression in six weeks. Epic win!


Now here's your challenge: When you watch my talk, try to see if you can spot the clues to this secret history. Remember, the first half was actually filmed five hours after the second half. So you should notice that my curls get mysteriously bouncier and my forehead a lot less shiny about halfway through the talk!

Oh, and one more thing: I'm sure you'll want to see the scientific research on gamer resilience for yourself. That's why I've collected more than 100 peer-reviewed, scientific studies that support the ideas in this TEDTalk. At, you'll find everything from the clinical trials that showed casual video games are able to treat depression and anxiety better than pharmaceuticals, to research that shows how playing a video game with a heroic avatar can make you more confident and ambitious in real life. So when you friends ask you, "Is it really true that a game can add 10 years to your life?" you'll not only be able to say yes, you'll have the game-changing science to back it up!

Ideas are not set in stone. When exposed to thoughtful people, they morph and adapt into their most potent form. TEDWeekends will highlight some of today's most intriguing ideas and allow them to develop in real time through your voice! Tweet #TEDWeekends to share your perspective or email to learn about future weekend's ideas to contribute as a writer.

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