Over the past week or so, as I’ve gone through the stress of taxes and gone from worrying about having to drop out of school for a year or two to work 60 hour weeks so I could afford to pay them back to the situation where I’ve got it under control, and can pay it off over several years, a number of friends have remarked that they think I’m amazing that I was able to overcome it. However, that ability isn’t something that is unique to me. Remember me talking about how gaming helps me improve my physical and mental well being about a week ago? Well, gaming does a lot more than just that. I talked a bit about gamification, applying the mechanics of play and gaming to real life, and it provides a lot of benefits to us. As the folks at Extra Credits (James Portnow, Daniel Floyd, and Allison Theus who has since moved on) told us a few years back, gamification has been proven to improve performance in work and school, help people take their medication on time, and more. In fact, here’s that video and the other one they have on the topic.
That sense of agency they speak about at about the three minute mark in the education video is what leads to me being so “amazing.” It’s the sense that I can accomplish a task, that trying various different things will have different results, allowing me to overcome a failure and try again. Jane McGonigal calls this “urgent optimism” when she did her first TED talk about how gaming can make a better world. She also speaks about what she calls “epic meaning,” a desire to take part in something big. In my case, I saw the challenge of the tax situation, knew I could overcome, and saw that if I can do it once, then I can do it a second time, saving that kind of money up after paying the taxes to pay for my surgery. That means that I’ll be able to have my surgery in the next 6-10 years if I accomplish this task.
So what does this mean for all of us? It means that we can all achieve this kind of “amazingness,” through obtaining a strong sense of agency and desire to be part of something bigger and better. In addition to the effects that Jane McGonigal has accomplished with her games (which she speaks about in the video, Evoke helped create business in Africa), gamification has been used to help with treatment of HIV through a game called Foldit, and Brenda Brathwaite has been working on a number of non-electronic games to help teach people about some of the horrific events in our history, including the Holocaust and the slave trade and is working on ones for the Trail of Tears and the economics of illegal immigration.
In short, games help us become more amazing, more able to adapt to hardships, and more able to overcome those same hardships. There are other ways to develop this sense of agency and urgent optimism, but this is how I’ve done it. How do you all help yourselves be able to overcome difficult times? How do you deal with failure?