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SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient--Powered by the Science of Games Hardcover – September 15, 2015

4.5 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Kirkus: 
"For those in search of a new self-help regimen, "SuperBetter" might just be the answer. Strong medical research and firsthand accounts provide evidence that playing games can make you a healthier, happier, more confident person."

Daniel H. Pink, bestselling author of Drive and A Whole New Mind:
“At the heart of SuperBetter is a simple and potentially transformative idea: We can use the same psychological strengths we display when we play games to confront real-life challenges, whether it's illness, injury, or just changing our habits for the better. Grounded in research and informed by McGonigal’s own sometimes harrowing experiences, this book will make you stop and think, then get you to act.”
 
Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., Clinical Professor, UCLA School of Medicine and author of Mindsight:
SuperBetter delivers mind-boggling, science-supported, health-promoting knowledge and practical steps to bring more well-being into your life in a fun and engaging way, even if you are facing epic challenges like anxiety, depression, traumatic brain injury, or medical illness. Visionary innovator and researcher Jane McGonigal provides the proof and the practices that reveal how living a ‘gameful’ life can help you get personally stronger, closer to others, clearer in your mind, braver in your actions, and a greater hero in your own unfolding life story. SuperBetter is a playful, hands-on manual immersing you directly in challenges and adventures of creative gaming to develop more flexibility and resilience as you transform your life.”
 
Jennifer Senior, author of All Joy and No Fun:
“In this dazzling manifesto, Jane McGonigal knits together state-of-the-art research, moving anecdotes, and extremely satisfying mini-challenges to show us how games—video and otherwise—hold the key to a more productive, joyous life. A game designer by training and an empath by nature, McGonigal uses every power-up at her disposal to convince her audience that the very tools we deploy in imaginary worlds can be used to overcome struggles in everyday life. The result is a candy-crushing, genre-slaying read, for which fans will surely be sending her gratitude notes for years to come.”
 
Felicia Day, creator of Geek and Sundry and author of You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost):
SuperBetter is an amazing book that fuses psychology and play in an revelatory way. With a wonderfully encouraging writing style, Jane morphs the tropes of gaming into an empowering tool set for change. SuperBetter is impeccably researched, extremely accessible, and sure to inspire gamers and non-gamers to adopt gameful techniques into their day-to-day lives. The sword of self-improvement never seemed easier to wield against the monsters lurking in one's mind!”
 
Rob Delaney, comedian and author of best-selling memoir Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage.:
“You can't think your way out of a problem, but you can work your way out of a problem. SuperBetter shows us that it's also possible, and maybe even healthier, to play your way out of a problem. Especially if you're a silly person, like me or Stephen Hawking.”
 
Asi Burak, President of Games for Change:
“Jane McGonigal is easily one of the most innovative thinkers in gaming today. In SuperBetter, she reveals to the world a great secret that avid game players kept for years: games are not a waste of your time; they can make you stronger, happier and more mindful. Reading this book is a compelling quest for anyone—whether you play games regularly, or you just have an open mind about them.”
 
Amy Cuddy, associate professor, Harvard Business School; author of Presence:
“This book is a wise and compassionate distillation of a wealth of good research about the psychology and neuroscience of resilience and social support, married to a game framework that itself comes out of rigorous new science into the psychology and neuroscience of gaming.  SuperBetter has been studied in action by the University of Pennsylvania and the National Institutes of Health, among others, and the facts are incontrovertible: following the SuperBetter rules makes people happier, more satisfied, less controlled by suffering, and stronger in their relationships with others. It really works.”
 
Susan Cain, co-founder of Quiet Revolution LLC and New York Times bestselling author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking:
“After reading Jane McGonigal’s SuperBetter I’ll never again say that something is ‘only a game.’ SuperBetter gives readers the tools to take the same challenge mindset we bring to playing the games we love and apply it to facing our greatest life challenges. The result is a clear path, not just to post-traumatic recovery, but to post-traumatic growth. In every sense a game-changing book.”
 
Jack Kornfield, Buddhist teacher and bestselling author of A Path With Heart:
“Jane McGonigal shows a playful doorway to well-being and how much we can gain from training attention. This is using the art of games to grow, heal and learn.”

Charles Duhigg, New York Times bestselling author of 
The Power of Habit

“Hundreds of thousands of people have had their lives changed by Jane McGonigal’s SuperBetter program, and I see why. It’s a marriage of  positive psychology with pioneering insights from cutting-edge game design. This is a plan for profound growth in the face of whatever challenges life throws at you - and whatever ones you can throw at yourself.”

Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of Better Than Before and The Happiness Project 
“Don’t we all want to be better than before? If fact, we’d like to be super better! Jane McGonigal’s fascinating, ground-breaking approach shows how ‘living gamefully’ can help us lead happier, healthier, more engaged lives.”

James R. Doty, M.D., Professor of Neurosurgery, Stanford University School of Medicine
“Many of us struggle to overcome challenges that seem overwhelming. Jane McGonigal has taken her immense knowledge of the science of gaming to create an innovative guide that allowed her to overcome her greatest challenge and now, thankfully, is available to each of us to overcome our own.”

Nilofer Merchant, CEO, Silicon Valley strategist, and author of The New How
“Until you understand yourselves as the hero of your own story, you'll never make a dent in the world. This insightful book shows you how to create the life of your dreams, using a gameful approach.”

Stacy London, host, What Not to Wear; author of The Truth About Style
“Jane McGonigal's book is an inspiring one about overcoming personal obstacles, and a revolutionary testament that game playing is for ANYONE who wants to change their life for the better.  To become stronger, braver, and happier, you have to ‘play with a purpose.’ And if you don't know what that means, get ready… you will.”

Marc Goodman, author of Future Crimes and Chair for Policy, Law & Ethics at Singularity University
“Masterfully written and well researched, SuperBetter is literally a game-changer for anybody looking to build resilience in their lives. Though today’s rapidly evolving world can often seem overwhelming, McGonigal offers an important and timely roadmap to take back control of our own lives and focus on what really matters. SuperBetter is a quest well-worth going on.”

About the Author

Jane McGonigal, PhD, is a senior researcher at the Institute for the Future and the author of The New York Times bestseller Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. Her work has been featured in The EconomistWired, and The New York Times and on MTV, CNN, and NPR. She has been called one of the top ten innovators to watch (BusinessWeek), one of the one hundred most creative people in business (Fast Company), and one of the fifty most important people in the gaming industry (Game Developers Magazine). Her TED talks on games have been viewed more than ten million times.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press; F First Edition edition (September 15, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594206368
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594206368
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ryan J. Dejonghe TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 15, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Gamer or not, SUPERBETTER will improve your life; it is this year’s POWER OF HABIT. The fact is: Jane McGonigal outlines a surefire way to gain mental, emotional, physical, and social resilience. The fact is: “game play supercharges self-efficacy, work ethic, and determination.”

McGonigal is the “first person in the world to earn a Ph.D. studying the psychological strengths of gamers and how those strengths can translate to real-world problem solving.” She brings TONS of research and scientific findings into practical, playful—gameful—approaches to our everyday stresses and problems. It’s a fun way to make major improvements in life. “You’re going to get SuperBetter at something, not SuperBetter from something.”

After applying her studies to herself, in creating “Jane the Concussion Slayer”, and seeing how it worked, McGonigal opened the “game” to over 400,000 people. Most of them saw improvements within 2 weeks, many seeing even more noticeable improvements 4-6 weeks into the program. The program went on to be controlled trial at University of Pennsylvania and a clinical trail at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. SuperBetter is now a website with accompanying apps on iTunes and the Play Store.

Here’s the gist, in 7 rules of the game:

1) Challenge yourself.
2) Collect and activate power-ups.
3) Find and battle the bad guys.
4) Seek out and complete quests.
5) Recruit your allies.
6) Adopt a secret identity.
7) Go for an epic win.

The book is broken into three parts: one to tell us why games make us better; two to teach us how to be gameful; three to build adventures in love, body transformation, and time enrichment. If you want to geek out (who doesn’t?
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This book would be better named SuperHype primarily because McGonigal has grossly exaggerated the science behind gaming.

The research on McGonigal’s game SuperBetter best exemplifies this.

The dropout rate from the SuperBetter study was huge - about 90%. This is despite recruiting a group of highly motivated participants. So the bottom line is that even the most motivated people struggled to engage with SuperBetter.

The high dropout rate makes any claims to the benefits of SuperBetter highly questionable at best and realistically probably irrelevant. As the authors of the research say “……. should be interpreted cautiously in light of high attrition rates and the motivated, self-selected sample.”

Extrapolating the dropout rate you'd probably find that nobody continued to use the Superbetter. It's like many of those apps that seemed useful when we purchased them, but the novelty rapidly dissipates, and they now lie dormant on our phones

I’d also point out the research was very poorly designed. As mentioned earlier – small biased sample (predominantly females interested in positive psychology), no placebo control (is it better than a sugar pill?), self report measures, and no reasonable follow-up (does it last longer than a month? – most of these interventions don’t).

The poor quality of the research and the high dropout rate probably explain why the research couldn’t be published in a first grade journal.

I have to admit I was a little puzzled by McGonigals poor understanding of science. The book seemed like a collection of those "hypey" press releases for studies which tend to exaggerate outcomes rather than understanding the nuance and limitations in research. But it became clear when I googled her background.
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Format: Hardcover
SuperBetter was created out of the despair the author experienced from a brain injury that left her facing severe incapacitation for an unknown period of time. She went from an active, research academic to an either/or proposition: commit suicide or find a way to turn her horrid condition into a survival game. The survival game won out and mushroomed into a 400,000 person research study and this book. Her approach is remarkable and she does an amazing job of explaining post traumatic growth syndrome rather than its well-known forbearer PTSD. Not everyone experiencing extreme stress is stricken down by the event. And the resilience possible through the growth is transformative. Her approach gives shape to a process that would otherwise be touch and go. BUT. The book is really 2 books, not one. And the ebook just did not work and I tried 2 different versions; it is diagram heavy and impossibly slow to load and read. The length and the diagrams work against the brilliance of her work. I am a perfect candidate for the book. I received my copy from Penguin's First to Read program and am very appreciative.
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VERY useful, in-depth break down of why games work and how to use them.
I personally have used the Superbetter app on and off for a couple of years, and it has been a great experience - helped get me through some of the toughest times in my work.

From there, I've experimented with a bunch of different ways to approach my life in a 'gameful' way - with some great results. The resilience that superbetter - and the 'gameful mindset' Jane McGonigal discusses in her book - gave me was one of the key elements in getting me through some really difficult transitions in my life and in my work.

I'm in my mid-20's, played a lot of games as a kid, but I've hardly touched anything more than Portal in about 5 years. The concepts outlined in Superbetter have brought back some of the stuff I used to love about games, but now with a lot more meaning (because the game is my life - and not a complex monstrosity of an adventure video game that I might not want to commit 50 hours of gameplay to).

I'll definitely be getting my friends into the book and game.
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