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How Playing Games on Your Phone Can Make You a Better Human

Posted on Wednesday, October 7, 2015 at 09:35PM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments Off

Have you played the phone game 1010!? I am not a gamer, but I have been playing 1010!. This is the only game I have ever played on my phone. Well, other than Words with Friends, with my daughter, but that only lasted until she got frustrated with my skill level.

Coincidentally, I am reading Jane McGonigal’s new book, Super Better. Jane McGonigal is a Ph.D. who has studied games for many years and developed 14 commercial digital games, herself. Her research and over 100 other research studies she cites in the book support her hypothesis that gaming can be highly beneficial.

Many of the early studies done on the effects of digital games indicated that game-playing was unhealthy escapism. Yet, later studies contradict the earlier findings. I wonder if, with gaming and other significant changes in our culture, the research is biased one way and then the other based on the age of the researchers and their own understanding of the changes.  

Anyway, McGonigal contends that games can be bad or good, depending upon whether the player is playing to hide from real life or to get better at real life.  

I would not have been able to personally relate to this before playing 1010!. But now I can definitely draw parallels between even this simple game and real life. I was able to triple my high score by changing from an offensive strategy - trying to clear cubes off the board - to a defensive strategy - trying to leave space for the most challenging randomly dealt combinations of cubes.

The parallel is that in real life we are randomly dealt situations. If we plan and leave room for different scenarios, life goes much better. Leaving room, in the game, means being intentional about having space to place the largest cube configurations.  The real life equivalent is preserving enough resources to deal with the unexpected. Obviously, this means money, but it also means time and a support network of family and friends.