June 27, 2020
by superbetter

The COVID-19 Mental Health Crisis: An Update on SuperBetter’s Response

Covid-19 mental health crisis

It’s been just over 100 days since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic.

In the early days, as the world scrambled to find tests, respirators, masks and vaccine candidates to address the physical crisis, we anticipated the COVID-19 mental health crisis on the horizon. The SuperBetter team took action, making a commitment to do what we could, with what we have available to help people to navigate the mental health burden caused as a result of the pandemic.

Looking forward, we’re especially concerned about the mental health impact of COVID-19 on high risk populations including young adults, youth and underserved communities. 

Experts Predict a Global Mental Health Crisis

The United Nations warns of a global mental health crisis during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Issues of systemic racism in America are compounding the crisis. In a recent USA Today story America is in turmoil, and a mental health crisis looms next, Jaime Diaz-Granados, acting chief scientific officer at the American Psychological Association reports “We are facing a culmination of crises unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes – in coronavirus, economic turmoil and racism.” 

A multitude of factors are contributing to the mental health burden in America and globally. The impact will be felt for months and years. They include loss of normalcy, economic distress, job loss, uncertainty about the future, social isolation, a sense of chronic threat, grieving lost lives and lost opportunities.

We expect rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide to increase, especially among young adults, youth and people in underserved communities. These high risk groups often have the least access to traditional resources and support. 

Mental health was already a large global problem before the pandemic. 284 million people around the world suffer with anxiety each year, 264 million from depression, and 800,000 complete suicide (United for Global Mental Health: Return on the Individual).  

COVID19 behavioral health crisis

Prevalence of anxiety, depression and suicide among U.S. young adults and teens increased at alarming rates over the past decade.

One of the biggest risks is that the mental health pressures caused by COVID-19 will further accelerate these alarming trends.

Our Immediate Response to the COVID-19 Mental Health Crisis

SuperBetter is a little company trying to make the world a whole lot better.

We offer a popular app that improves resilience, mental health and success. Users experience SuperBetter as a game played in real life. 1 million people from around the world have played SuperBetter so far. Our app is regularly found on media lists of best apps for mental health & wellbeing, often alongside VC-backed apps like Calm and Headspace that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars. SuperBetter is backed by science. Today, our app is 100% free for anyone to use.

When the pandemic was announced we found ourselves in a position to help. We shifted our focus right away.

SuperBetter has attracted a passionate global community. We first started by reminding our community how our app can be helpful during these challenging times, and that published studies show that playing SuperBetter can help reduce anxiety. Many in turn used their social media platforms to recommend SuperBetter to friends, family, and other followers. We saw a surge in app downloads right away as people started to self-quarantine and looked for help to manage their Coronavirus anxiety.

Next, since the pandemic is new to all of us, we crowdsourced insights from the SuperBetter Community about stressors and obstacles they anticipated in their new normal. We used these insights to inform new activities for the app.

Third, we introduced two new evidence-based, pandemic-edition Power Packs to address challenges created by COVID-19 and physical distancing. The Stay-At-Home Scavenger Hunt and Stay Strong in a Pandemic can be found in the ‘Get Power Packs’ area of the mobile apps or website.

Fourth, we joined the conversation about the COVID-19 mental health crisis and built awareness that SuperBetter and the new pandemic-edition Power Packs are a free, broad reaching, evidence-based resource to help people around the world improve resilience, mental health and success during these difficult times.

We participated in virtual COVID-19 wellbeing conferences, a COVID-19 Techathon, an Edtech Conference and guest lectured at Punch Through Pandemics with Psychological Science a national online psychology course hosted by Oregon State University.

UPDATE: after this post was published, Jane was featured at a COVID-19 Mental Health Conference hosted by the 92nd Street Y where she interviewed her equally amazing and brilliant twin sister Kelly McGonigal (their 15 minute segment starts at 2:16:30).

Our Efforts Have Been Successful So Far

When the pandemic was announced, our immediate goal was to help more people navigate these challenging times. We’ve been successful. For the month of May, SuperBetter app store downloads are up 60% vs. pre-pandemic levels and global app sessions are up 42%.

The number of people joining the SuperBetter Official Community Group each week nearly doubled.

Coronavirus Mental Health Crisis

We’re grateful for Allies across the U.S. and around the world that proactively promote SuperBetter as a resource for the people they serve.

These Allies include people in media, colleges & universities, K-12 schools, medical centers, counseling centers, local governments, youth-focused non-profits, mental health non-profits, and others.

Our proactive response to the COVID-19 mental health crisis contributed to a 3-fold increase in media stores featuring SuperBetter so far this year. You can find over 50 media stories from 2020 on the SuperBetter Press Page.

Because of its credibility and science, SuperBetter is recommended by more organizations than ever. Hundreds include SuperBetter on resource pages for COVID-19, mental health, health services, self-care, student success, career services and social-emotional learning.

We acknowledged many of these Allies in a #ShoutOut campaign on the SuperBetter Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages over the past two months. 

We’re Calling for Allies to Help Us Do More

SuperBetter is uniquely positioned to help young adults, youth and people in underserved communities increase their resilience, mental health and success – at scale – during and after the COVID-19 mental health crisis.  

Here’s why. The SuperBetter app is convenient and accessible to anyone with a smartphone or web access. It’s effective — playing SuperBetter builds resilience, and published meta-analyses show it is one of the most effective apps validated for reducing anxiety and depression. It’s popular —  SuperBetter has attracted 1 million users so far (with zero advertising).

The familiar mindset and language of games found in SuperBetter is universal. It brings people together and transcends ages, ethnic backgrounds and income levels. The SuperBetter game is especially appealing to young adults and youth. Many find the game a more energizing, social and adaptable experience compared to meditation.

The magnitude of the global mental health crisis during and after COVID-19 requires population-wide impact. In SuperBetter, The Power of Living Gamefully Jane McGonigal explains one of the rules for playing SuperBetter: Go for an epic win – an awe inspiring outcome that helps you be more motivated and less afraid of failure.

Motivated by the magnitude of the cause, Team SuperBetter is going for a super epic win of 50 million SuperBetter players by 2030. That level of scale will create national and global impact and strengthen resilience and social cohesion at the individual, community and societal level. As a reference, 50 million represents fewer than 2% of the 2.7 billion current video game players around the world.

But, we can’t do this alone. To achieve this awe-inspiring epic win, we need to recruit our allies (another rule for playing SuperBetter). We are now working to identify and recruit mission-aligned investors and strategic partners who care about both social impact and financial return.

Coronavirus behavioral health crisis

We have exciting plans that will take the SuperBetter game to a whole new level, including a new Group Play experience.

With resources in place, we’ll upgrade the SuperBetter app and make it available on the app stores, and through colleges & universities, K-12 schools, and employers.

Our solution will address large customer needs for student success & retention in higher ed, social-emotional learning in K-12 schools, and talent development for employers.

The result will be a long-term sustainable business with big social impact that supports young adults, youth and people in underserved communities — during and after the pandemic.

We’re All in This Together

These are unusual and challenging times. The disruption of lives during the first 100 days of the COVID-19 was hard for nearly everyone. Nobody knows how long it will continue.

The world is just starting to see the effects of the global COVID-19 mental health crisis now following on the heels of the pandemic. The crises of economic turmoil and systemic racism are compounding the problem.

These are epic challenges. The world urgently needs more well-designed, science-backed tools in the toolkit, like SuperBetter, to help individuals and communities proactively build skills, empower peer-support and complement traditional care.

The SuperBetter team is committed to doing our part.

Stay safe and healthy. We appreciate you.

Your allies at SuperBetter

April 16, 2020
by superbetter

New Pandemic Edition of SuperBetter Promotes Mental Health During Coronavirus Crisis

The Coronavirus pandemic is a crisis and source of stress & personal challenge. Nearly everyone on the planet is impacted. Most have felt a loss of normal, many will lose jobs, some will lose friends & loved ones. The mental, social, emotional and physical burden will be heavy. The surge in anxiety during the initial phase of the pandemic is just the beginning.

To help people around the world navigate the crisis, SuperBetter added a new power pack in its popular game. The Stay Strong in a Pandemic power pack is designed for anyone who wants to overcome challenges and stay strong during the COVID-19 pandemic. The activities help players increase mental, social, emotional and physical resilience while following World Health Organization and CDC guidance to slow the spread of the virus.

The Stay Strong in a Pandemic power pack features Quests to complete each day, troublesome Bad Guys to battle, and resilience-building Power-ups to activate. It includes two of Jane McGonigal’s special Power-ups: The Power Breath and The Plus One Technique

Because the impact of the crisis is new, the SuperBetter team initiated the pandemic edition by crowdsourcing ideas from the SuperBetter Community. They learned about the biggest challenges faced so far and anticipated during the pandemic. The ideas and insights informed the development of the evidence-based activities. 

SuperBetter is a game played in real life to improve resilience, mental health and success. Everything in the SuperBetter game is backed by the science of resilience and challenge response growth. Playing SuperBetter can help players navigate the crisis, build whole-person resilience and achieve personal growth in the process

Published meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials show SuperBetter is among the most effective mobile apps validated for reducing anxiety and depression

“So many people are already struggling. We feel the urgency to help,” says Keith Wakeman, SuperBetter CEO. “Adding power packs and making the SuperBetter app available for free to everyone who needs it is our way of helping now while we forge alliances to do more.”

SuperBetter previously introduced the Stay-at-Home Scavenger Hunt power pack to help players and their friends strengthen social connections while physical distancing. 

Find Stay Strong in a Pandemic in the ‘Get Power Packs’ area of the SuperBetter apps (iOSAndroid) or website.

Stay safe and healthy. We will get through this together.

Your allies at SuperBetter

Stay Strong in a Pandemic

March 28, 2020
by superbetter

New Physical Distancing Game Strengthens Social Connections

Physical distancing game

SuperBetter has added a new physical distancing game in its popular app. The new Stay-at-Home Scavenger Hunt creates social connection and emotional wellbeing as players stay-at-home and practice physical distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

The new game supports the recent shift by the World Health Organization to the phrase ‘physical distancing’ to emphasize the need to physically – but not socially – separate from others.

SuperBetter is a resilience-building game that helps players go for epic wins in real life. Nearly a million people have played SuperBetter so far. Published meta-analyses show SuperBetter is among the most effective apps for reducing anxiety and depression. 

The Stay-at-Home Scavenger Hunt physical distancing game is the first of two new Power Packs planned for the SuperBetter game to help players boost their resilience, mental wellbeing and success during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The second, now in development, is a Coronavirus Game to promote emotional, mental, social and physical resilience while following World Health Organization guidance. We recently crowdsourced ideas from the SuperBetter Community to inform the activities.

A week ago SuperBetter reported new app downloads more than doubled and global app sessions surged 40% over the prior week.

“People around the world are feeling tremendous losses of normalcy, safety, connection and economic stability,” says Keith Wakeman, SuperBetter CEO. “Adding Power Packs and making our SuperBetter app available for free to everyone who needs it are ways we can help right away while we work on plans and partnerships for even greater impact.”

The Stay-at-Home Scavenger Hunt is a physical distancing game that increases social connection. It sparks positive emotions like curiosity, surprise and gratitude. The 2-week game challenges players to find one new thing every day without ever leaving their home. Players share their daily finds with friends, family, the SuperBetter Community, or on social media using hashtag #SuperBetterScavengerHunt.

Find The Stay-at-Home Scavenger Hunt in the ‘Get Power Packs’ area of the SuperBetter apps (iOS, Android) or website. Game on!


The SuperBetter Team

Physical Distancing Game Activity

March 16, 2020
by superbetter

Help Turn SuperBetter into a Coronavirus Game

Coronavirus Game

The SuperBetter team is developing two new Power Packs in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic. The first – to be introduced next week – is a Physical Distancing Game to increase social connection while practicing physical distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19. The second is the Coronavirus Game discussed in this post.

Navigating the realities of life during a pandemic is new to all of us. We need your help to adapt the SuperBetter game to help people thrive during the Coronavirus pandemic.

At SuperBetter we are grateful to be part of an amazing community willing to collaborate on big epic wins. This one is really big.

We want to turn SuperBetter into a Coronavirus game that helps people and communities around the world successfully managing the stress, disruption and uncertainty associated with COVID-19 while supporting public health strategies to inhibit its spread.

To support this epic win, we are creating a new Coronavirus Power Pack for the SuperBetter game. The Power Pack will have Power-ups to activate, Bad Guys to battle and Quests to complete.

The Power Pack activities will help players build mental, emotional, social and physical resilience as they follow World Health Organization and CDC Coronavirus guidelines. The Power Pack will be available for free in the SuperBetter apps and website.

You can help by reflecting on the challenges you anticipate due to Coronavirus and what is working for you right now. Think like a gamer and turn your ideas into Power-ups, Bad Guys and Quests. Have fun with it and don’t worry about making your ideas perfect.

Share your ideas here.

Back at SuperBetter HQ we will use the ideas to inform the creation of an evidence-based Power Pack for the SuperBetter game.

The SuperBetter game is backed by science. Published studies show that playing SuperBetter increases the seven mental, emotional and social measures scientifically linked to higher resilience. Meta-analyses show SuperBetter to be among the most effective mobile apps on the market for reducing anxiety. Nearly a million people have played SuperBetter so far. Its popularity, strong science and gameful approach makes SuperBetter a promising solution to help people around the world thrive during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Thank you in advance for being an ally in this epic win of global magnitude!

Game on!

Please go here to share your ideas by Sunday, March 22, 2020.

February 23, 2020
by superbetter

Jane’s First TED Talk Turns Ten

Wow – it’s been a decade since Jane McGonigal said we should aim to achieve 20 billion hours a week playing games by the year 2020. Jane is the inventor of SuperBetter.

Well, it’s 2020. We’re gaming 18.9 billion hours a week. Good job, world!

Watch Jane’s First TED Talk here: Gaming can make a better world

Of course we love Jane’s second TED Talk too. That’s the one where where she shares her inspiring story that led to SuperBetter: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life

Together these talks have 15 million views on TED and YouTube. That’s A LOT of people interested in the idea that we can use the science of games to improve real lives and solve real problems facing society today.


January 8, 2020
by superbetter

The #TechForGood Design Principles Behind SuperBetter

Built In just released an excellent story about the science, mission and #TechForGood design principles that make SuperBetter a usual suspect on media lists of best apps for mental health & wellbeing.

Built In is a respected tech industry publisher and community builder. Their vision is to connect the world through a shared passion for tech and the human need for purpose. Built In was excited to share the SuperBetter case study as a source of ‘Tech for Good’ insights for their community of product designers.

The title is “How to Gamify Wellbeing Without Missing the Point.”

You can read the story here.

October 17, 2019
by Daniel

Our Quest to Improve College Student Success and Retention

Nearly a million people have played SuperBetter so far to build resilience, improve mental health and achieve goals that matter. It’s among the small percent of mental health & wellbeing apps validated in studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Today’s post is a sneak peek of new project to create a version of SuperBetter college students. The SuperBetter On Campus (SBOC) project is designed for social impact and will help  increase success and graduation rates among the approximately 20 million students currently enrolled in colleges & universities in the U.S., and over time, the 207 million students enrolled in higher-ed institutions globally.

Continue Reading →

September 24, 2019
by Daniel

SuperBetter gets highest score among physical activity game apps for including proven health behavior theory practices

From left: Zombies, Run! 5K, SuperBetter, and Yoga Retreat were three of the apps/serious games assessed for health behavior theory (HBT) practices.

SuperBetter builds resilience to overcome tough situations and achieve goals that matter most. While best known for benefits related to mental health and recovery, one of the top 5 reasons for playing SuperBetter is to achieve epic wins related to working out or getting fit. 

In this study that analyzed and rated 52 exercise and physical activity games and apps for the inclusion of health behavior theory (HBT) principles, SuperBetter received the highest score by far, 76 out of a maximum score of 100. The average score across all apps included in the study was 14.98 out of 100. The study was published in the journal JMIR Serious Games.  

Continue Reading →

August 27, 2019
by Daniel
Comments Off on SuperBetter receives highest marks in evaluation of apps for chronic pain

SuperBetter receives highest marks in evaluation of apps for chronic pain

Chronic pain is one of the top 10 reasons people play SuperBetter. 

Now, a recent study evaluating 19 smartphone apps found SuperBetter to be one of three apps that fulfilled the highest number of best-practice criteria for supporting the self-management of chronic pain. These best practices include strategies such as self-efficacy building, self-tailoring of activities, goal setting & planning, problem solving and social support. Researchers screened a total of 939 apps to find the 19 that met the criteria as a chronic pain app to be included in the study.

Continue Reading →

August 11, 2019
by Daniel
Comments Off on Concussion sufferers can access the daily activities from the SuperBetter Clinical Trial for free

Concussion sufferers can access the daily activities from the SuperBetter Clinical Trial for free

via The Ohio State University (osu.edu)

Those struggling with post-concussion symptoms now have an app-based resource for support during their concussion recovery. SuperBetter is making available, at no cost, the Power Packs (i.e. daily activities) developed for the clinical trial that evaluated the impact of using SuperBetter among concussion patients with persistent symptoms. People with a concussion or mild to moderate traumatic brain injury can access these Power Packs in the SuperBetter app or website using the special code found near the end of this post. 

Continue Reading →