SuperBetter

OutfitterDarkness

A quick note about this section

Our passion for designed objects is the direct result of our passion for well made things. We are always on the lookout for smart and well made products that are physical manifestations of a daring spirit of adventure; new ways of thinking about the world. Outfitter is where we share our current favourites along with a little window into how they came to be.

Epic wins, every day

Written by
Stephen Baldwin


People
Keith Wakeman, co-founder and CEO

Process
Leveraging personal experience and the mechanics of game design  

Product
A platform that helps people think of real-world challenges like bad guys and successes like epic wins


A platform that helps people think of real-world challenges like bad guys and successes like epic wins SuperBetter is trying to be more than a game or app, but a way of living, by helping its users reframe how they think about the good and bad in their real lives.

The game was created by Jane McGonigal, an author and game designer who suffered from severe depression and at one point became suicidal after experiencing a concussion that didn’t heal properly. For her, SuperBetter really could have a life-or-death impact.

As a passionate advocate for the positive impact of video games — she wrote a book called Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World — she tried to translate her personal demons into digital demons, which she could then take on like she would a bad guy in one of her favourite games.

Photo courtesy of SuperBetter

Keith Wakeman, SuperBetter’s CEO, immediately understood the impact the platform could have for both individuals and organizations. The way he speaks shows it’s had an enormous impact on his own mindset — he describes personal successes as “epic wins.”

Wakeman says his experience with mental illness was nothing like McGonigal’s, but it was enough to help him understand the need for something like SuperBetter.

“Growing up and living in America, I’d feel stressed a lot,” he said. “I’d feel anxious.”

It helped that its positive impact was backed by two published academic studies. It also helped that Wakeman, a longtime consultant and innovation expert, had spent much of the previous five years helping companies such as Kellogg, Keebler, and Nabisco launch new products, including dozens of cookie brands.

“Intellectually, it was great, but in terms of making the world a better place … the world doesn’t need another new cookie,” he said.

His company bought SuperBetter — which consists of a web version of the game, an app, an enterprise version, and a book written by McGonigal — and has since expanded it into a platform aimed at dramatically improving people’s personal and professional lives.

Users input their real challenges in life as “quests,” which can vary from delivering a presentation to running a marathon, with their completion of those quests being “epic wins.”

SuperBetter’s method for self-improvement is aimed at building mental, emotional, social, and physical resilience. Users input their real challenges in life as “quests,” which can vary from delivering a presentation to running a marathon, with their completion of those quests being “epic wins.” To help them reach epic wins, they’re encouraged to add their “allies” — friends, family, co-workers, and strangers and mentors from the SuperBetter network — so they can easily elicit help and/or encouragement. Along the way, they can use “power-ups” that range from “Chug a glass of water” to “Listen to Eye of the Tiger” to “Practice mindfulness.” All of these are steps to take against the “Bad guys” (for example, “The anxiety vampire”) to help users overcome their real-life challenges.

It may seem juvenile or simplistic, and the interface itself isn’t particularly elegant, but the structure is thoughtful and effective. More importantly, it has worked, and continues to work, for hundreds of thousands of people. More than 700,000 people all over the world are registered for the free version, and many more are using the enterprise version, SuperBetter at Work. Wakeman says the next market is in education, helping students build resilience at an early age.

“We have a history teacher in Austin who teaches 150 eighth-grade students to use the SuperBetter method. Students will do things like practise the challenge mindset, which is, every time you have an obstacle or a challenge, you can take on a ‘fear mindset’ or a ‘challenge mindset.’ The challenge mindset helps people, students in this case, to be more optimistic, more excited for tests.”

___

To find out more about SuperBetter, visit superbetter.com

Stephen Baldwin

Stephen Baldwin is a Toronto-based writer and editor who has written for Toronto Life, Fortune, Report on Business magazine, and CBC.

Preparing is Half the Adventure

Modern-day discoverer Adam Shoalts discusses risk taking, remoteness, and the role of research in his latest four-month solo trek through the Canadian Arctic into areas still untouched by human footprints.

Read More

Reading in the Dark

Ten must-read books to get you through the night.

Read More

PolitEcho

A mirror for the "daily me"

Read More

Aerelight

Thinner, greener, smarter

Read More

Enchroma

Colour for the colour blind

Read More

Gravity Light

A new class of lightweight

Read More

Awake in the Amazon

A traveller shares his deep and incomplete reflection on an ayahuasca trip.

Read More

Wearing Black

A Photo Essay by Nick Kozak

Read More

Missing and Murdered

Julian Brave NoiseCat interviews award-winning journalist Connie Walker about her podcast that brings light to one of Canada's darkest issues.

Read More

Chasing Totality

The most vivid memory I have of an eclipse is one of deep anxiety.

Read More

Dark Patterns

In today's digitally driven culture, where we share more about ourselves than ever before, companies are finding new, subtle ways to tap into an age-old marketing opportunity — our insecurity.

Read More

Changing the Conversation

Three YouTube creators are working to destigmatize their culture and maybe even learn a thing or two about themselves in the process.

Read More

Embracing Our Dark Reality

A collective of writers, artists, and thinkers is exploring the darkest realities of our time.

Read More

Preserving the Night Sky

Two astronomers discuss why the night sky we see today is different from what our grandparents saw.

Read More

Saving Endangered Languages

How one Mohawk community is reclaiming culture by revitalizing its mother tongue.

Read More

The Night Shift

Four Torontonians share the ins and outs of working outside the nine-to-five.

Read More

This Film is Available in Critical Audio

Blind film critic Tommy Edison reviews films for those seeking entertainment beyond sight.

Read More

The Dark Arts

Artist Kent Monkman subverts colonial myths and First Nations representation in his sesquicentennial exhibition.

Read More

Having Fun Watching Others Having Fun

Twitch has built an unlikely new platform for online entertainment.

Read More