Saturday, September 5, 2015


Title:  SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient--Powered by the Science of Games
Author:  Jane McGonigal
Publication Information:  Penguin Press. 2015. 480 pages.
ISBN:  1594206368 / 978-1594206368

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The SuperBetter method is designed to make you stronger, happier, braver, and more resilient."

Favorite Quote:  "We have more power, more mental control, over what we feel, moment to moment, than we realize."

SuperBetter is a self-help approach with a new twist - the mindset and terminology of video games. The premise is that the physical, mental, emotional, and social skills an individual displays in video games can be applied to our lives to improve our well being. The book accompanies an online forum in which you can set up your "game."

The book is very well organized and easy to read. It uses text features such as text boxes, lists, and other formatting tools to clearly set out information. Each section offers a preview of what is to come, and the end of each section presents a summary of major ideas. Adopting the gaming mindset, the book presents the SuperBetter method rules:
  • Challenge yourself - what is your goal?
  • Collect and activate power-ups - small concrete actions move you towards your goal.
  • Find and battle the bad guys - what challenges or obstacles stand in your way?
  • Seek out and complete quests - translate your bigger goal into smaller, achievable steps.
  • Recruit your allies - build a community of support around you, whether from the people in your real life or others who share your goals or challenges.
  • Adopt a secret identity - put the power of imagination to work and envision the characteristics you wish to develop.
  • Go for an epic win!
Integrated with the presentation of the method are activities to engage the reader - "quests" for the reader to complete. In other words, reading about an approach to "make you a stronger person in every way:  mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially" is not enough; you have to put the ideas into practice.

The book has three main sections. Part 1 explains the gaming mindset and what skills gaming taps into and develop. Part 2 makes the connection of applying the gaming paradigm to your own real-life goals. The book does suggest that if you are immediately ready for action, skip Part 1 and go directly to Part 2. Finally, Part 3 suggests a sequence of specific actions for commonly stated challenges such the "ninja body transformation."

The book begins with a section that lists the major studies on which the book is based. The book also includes a section at the end "About the Science." The end notes cites about five hundred papers on which this research is based. In addition, the author provides an online link with further links to online, public versions of the papers or research abstracts for those that cannot be publicly shared. The idea that the approach is based in science is reinforced often in the book. Case studies demonstrate how people have used the approach. Dr. McGonigal shares own experiences as an example; her research and this approach came about partially for her own benefit as she struggled to recover from a serious concussion. However, the presentation of the book is not data driven. The scientific data may underlie the book, but it is not the focus of the book. The focus stays on the application of the SuperBetter method to life.

One side note about book format. The book uses many text boxes with graphic frames to set off particular types of information. While visually appealing, the graphics affect the readability of the book in electronic format. The pages with graphic elements are slow to load, causing a break in the reading. (Please note that this may be an issue specifically with the galley I received and may be resolved in the published edition of the book. If not, then I would recommend a print format.)

As with most books of this type, the ideas are not new. Psychological resilience helps you pursue and achieve goals and helps you recover from setbacks. If the metaphor of video games - with power ups, quests, allies, and bad guys - works for you, you will likely find the book works for you. If this is not the metaphor for you, similar tools and techniques can be found elsewhere. Either way, it's up to. Read about and then put it into practice.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment