Siggraph 2012: Keynoter Jane McGonigal Says Playing Games Can Improve Health, Extend Lives

The futurist told 3,000 confab attendees that scientific studies suggest games have helped those with autism, ADHD, PTSD and even cancer.

Thousands from the computer graphics community might live a little longer if they attended Monday's keynote at annual computer graphics confab Siggraph, taking place this week at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Game developer and futurist Jane McGonigal -- director of game research and development at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, Calif., and author of Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make us Better and How they Can Change the World (2011) -- believes that games can make us more optimistic, more resilient.

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She did extensive research, and she explained that scientific studies suggest playing games can and have helped those with autism, ADHD, PTSD and even cancer.

“We are in the business of the art of shaping people’s destinies,” McGonigal told the crowd of content creators, technology researchers and educators. “We need skills and abilities to get the future we want … physical, mental, social and emotional resilience. When I think about games, I’m very interested in what abilities they create and also the destinies they lead us toward.”

McGonigal explains that games bring out positive emotions, including curiously, excitement, contentment, creativity, wonder, joy, relief, love, purpose and pride.

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Demonstrating her belief, McGonigal has created a game, SuperBetter (available at the App Store), which helps players built their resilience through various tasks. During her keynote, McGonigal led an estimated 3,000 Siggraph attendees through a sampling of the game. Tasks included raising their fists in the air for five seconds -- “worth plus-one physical resilience … every single second that you are not sitting still, you are actively improving the heath of your heart, and your lungs and brain.”

McGonigal concluded that those who participated earned an extra 7.5 minutes of life.

In the end, she had one last task for the crowd -- decide how to spend those bonus minutes.