SuperBetter Kids

Jane McGonigal's work on games has convincingly demonstrated the power they have in helping us "win" in challenging situations. Let's play!

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Thanks to some serious challenges of her own, Jane McGonigal (cf. her Are You Gameful? website) developed the "SuperBetter" game and describes it in her most recent book SuperBetter (cf. the mobile app) that helped her to build resilience and a more positive mental outlook on herself and her life. The SuperBetter game can easily be adapted for school communities by taking a more "gameful" approach to the way we interact with each other as a community, building physical, mental, emotional, and social resilience in the process. Though I've indicated "Middle School" below, when social and emotional skills are being developed and tested, SuperBetter can work for any age level.

Depending on how much a school community wants to embrace SuperBetter, the game can be organized in a number of ways. At its most basic, I see it working something like this:

  1. Kids (and adults!) establish a secret identity only to be shared with a few others, based on what they see as their strengths and personal values (perhaps going as far as making avatars for themselves).
  2. Using their secret identities and strengths, we help create a "challenge mindset" by creating skill-based strategy goals for ourselves (vs. "do better" or difficult goals). Our goals can be anything from learning to appreciate Latin literature more, finding more examples of geometry in the world, or learning how to dance. And our goals are realistic, challenging, energizing, and forgiving.
  3. With our secret identities and goals, we then form teams who give each other challenges or quests that help us achieve our goals. If one of our team members values social interaction and friendship and is eager to build our fluency in Spanish, for example, perhaps we propose a challenge of talking only in Spanish at lunch for an entire week. To learn how to dance, which tests our bravery and teamwork, our teams may decide to stage a dance-off with other teams (or teachers!).
  4. Finally, we celebrate our epic wins together and visibly within our school community, however big or small.

In pursuing challenges with each other, we'll become mentally stronger in the variety of ways shown by McGonigal, and we'll also build a stronger community.

How does this idea help to spark student curiosity?

By building a challenge mindset, along with skills necessary to use it, we will naturally challenge our creativity in designing new challenges for each other. And as we come to know ourselves better through reflection on their personal values and goals, I think we'll naturally become more curious about our place in the world beside each other, especially with goals involving creation. We'll want to learn more about ourselves, as we become more observant of others and ask ourselves "What's next?"

What grade level is this idea most appropriate for?

  • Middle School (5-8)

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