November 04, 2010
2010 Cerner Health Conference Keynote Recap: Jane McGonigal
On October 10th, 2010, Jane McGonigal gave a keynote presentation at the Cerner Health Conference. Below is a recap of her presentation.
Games, such as chess or dice, have entertained us for centuries. But can they empower us to take better care of ourselves and engage in our health?
For Jane McGonigal, Ph.D., a game designer and futurist, the answer is a resounding “yes.” McGonigal offered her unique take on the value of games in her general session address Monday morning.
McGonigal, of Palo Alto, Calif., is internationally known for creating games that inspire global-scale collaboration and collective intelligences.
“When we are playing games, we are becoming the best version of ourselves,” said McGonigal, who drew on her own personal experience to make a point.
Jane the concussion slayer
Recently, McGonigal suffered a brain injury,which resulted in social isolation, stress, anxiety, vertigo, nausea, depression and thoughts of suicide. The activities she most enjoyed in life—reading, writing, running and a cup of coffee—were forbidden. She said her brain told her that she wanted to die.
The turning point came on Aug. 18, 2009, when she decided “I’m either going to kill myself, or I’m going to turn this into a game.”
She chose the latter, creating a game called “Jane the Concussion Slayer” (a takeoff of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”). In the game, McGonigal recruited family and friends to play integral roles in her recovery. Her sister, for example, called her daily and gave her “mis sions” she had to complete. Her husband handled all of her email and communications, and her friends provided comic relief weekly.
McGonigal steered clear of caffeine, bright lights and enclosed spaces, but found solace in listening to music and cuddling with her dog.
“Within two weeks of playing the game, I was no longer suffering,” McGonigal said. “Within a month, I was back to writing my book.”
McGonigal used her experience to create a health-related game called “Super Better,” in which gamers come up with new ways to cope with asthma, chemotherapy, social anxiety and even romantic breakups. “Pain is inevitable,” McGonigal said, “but suffering is optional.”
Video games help players “feel a sense of heroic purpose,” McGonigal said,which explains why people have spenta total of 5.93 million years playingthe World of Warcraft video game. To prove her point, McGonigal cited a study of 1,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan that found those who played three to four hours of video games a day had the lowest stress levels. Another study found that children who play cooperative video games after only 30 minutes are three times more likely to help someone out in real life.
Games, McGonigal said, have the ability to help us become “super-powered hopeful individuals who feel they have the ability and responsibility to change the world for the better.”
One audience member, John Drish, of Advocate Health Care, Oak Brook, Ill., said her speech made him think the video games his kids play after school aren’t a big waste of time. “I never thought of it as ‘this is their happy place,’” he said. “Maybe it’s helping and not hurting.”
Other audience members’ reactions to Mognigal’s speech
“I liked the thought of taking ideas from a completely different field and applying it to medicine. I thought it was realistic, taking a group of people, making healthcare exciting and getting buy-in. It has definite implications beyond the electronic world for patient care. I could see it working with my patients.”
Dr. Jeffrey Held, Internal Medicine, BayCare Health System
“As a gamer myself, I thought it was very true. One of the ways to make the ICU interesting for patients is to get everybody involved and hope for these epic outcomes. I was excited about it. I will email my wife and tell her there was a speaker at CHC who said, ‘Hey video games are good.’”
Dr. Lee Maddox, ICU, WellSpan Health, York Hospital
“I thought it was extremely applicable to what I do. As we think about our Cerner releases, we often teach it in terms of step one two three—in a very linear way. She’s saying, let people master it in their own way. Then they’re going to be empowered to utilize that in the future. They will have their own personal incentive.”
Theresa Duffy May, R.N., BSN, M.A., Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota