Games Can Help Us Heal, Recover

Games Can Help Us Heal, Recover

I’m either going to kill myself, or I’m going to turn this into a game. After the four most miserable weeks of my life, those seemed like the only two options left.

It was the summer of 2009, I was about halfway through writing my book, and I got a concussion. It was a stupid, fluke accident: I was standing up, and I slammed my head straight into a cabinet door I didn’t realize was still open. I was dizzy, saw stars, and felt sick to my stomach. When my husband asked me who the president was, I drew a blank.

Some concussions get better in a few hours, or a few days. Others turn into a much longer post-concussion syndrome. That’s what happened to me. I got a headache and a case of vertigo that didn’t go away. Any time I turned my head, it felt like I was doing somersaults. And I was in a constant mental fog. I kept forgetting things – people’s names, where I put stuff. If I tried to read or write, after a few minutes, my vision blurred out completely. I couldn’t think clearly enough to keep up my end of interesting conversations. Even just being around other people, or out in public spaces, seemed to make it worse. At the time, I scribbled these notes: “Everything is hard. The iron fist pushes against my thoughts. My whole brain feels vacuum pressurized. If I can’t think, who am I?”

After five days of these symptoms and after a round of neurological tests that all proved normal, my doctor told me not to worry, I would be fine – but it would probably take a entire month before I really felt like myself again. In the meantime: No reading, no writing, no working, and no running, unless I was completely symptom-free. I had to avoid anything that made my head hurt or made the fog worse. (Sadly, I quickly discovered that computer and videogames were out of the question; it was way too much mental stimulation.)

About Jane McGonigal
Jane McGonigal is a world-renowned game designer, and the Director of Games Research & Development at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California. She has created and deployed games and missions in more than 30 countries on six continents.

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