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Year’s end is a natural time of reflection, and in my family we take time out to think about what is just past and what the future might hold. This year we will have something more to discuss having happened upon the TED video below.


In it, Jane McGonigal, discusses how games can improve our lives and, surprisingly, our longevity, and she cites the findings of Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse, who while working in end-of-life palliative care for more than a decade documented the deathbed regrets of her patients.  She wrote about these in her blog and later wrote a book on the subject.  Her rank-ordered list of the top five regrets was also published in The Guardian, a UK newspaper:


  1. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish I’d let myself be happier.


The first regret Ware reported came from her patient’s realization that many of their dreams were unfulfilled and, with time slipping away, there was no hope of realizing them.  The second Ware reported was expressed by every one of her male patients, who deeply regretted missing out on much of their children’s childhoods and forgoing time with their partners and other family members.  Suppressing their feelings led many to bitterness and resentment at the end of their lives, and may well have contributed to illnesses they suffered.  As for the fourth, this was recognition that life often got in the way of maintaining old friendships and building new ones, and that there was too little time left to correct the situation.  Finally, Ware’s patients regretted that they hadn’t laughed more and been sillier in their adulthood.  


You might suspect that as a video game designer, Jane McGonigal uses the last of these regrets merely to convince you to play video games, but her story is much richer than this.  As a result of an accident, Ms. McGonigal suffered a severe concussion that during her recuperation led her to contemplate suicide.  Her survival strategy was to study the scientific research on the topic of games and mental health and to design a game that would help her recover.  Here is her fascinating talk and if you follow her prescription she promises to add a decade to your life.


If you cannot see the video below, you can reach it through the following link:



We love games in our family, but I have to admit that I have sometimes been annoyed when the grandchildren have their heads bowed over Farmville or some other electronic game.  I am rethinking this irritation now in light of Ms. McGonigol’s presentation. With one less thing to worry about I am resolving to let myself be happier and sillier in the year to come...and possibly to try my hand at Farmville.


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