In 2012, the smartphone app ‘SuperBetter’ was launched following extensive research and development with psychologists and game designers. The app endeavours to teach people how to overcome problems and obstacles, and live with a more gameful and positive outlook on life.
SuperBetter increases resilience – the ability to stay strong, motivated and optimistic even in the face of difficult obstacles. Playing SuperBetter makes you more capable of getting through any tough situation—and more likely to achieve the goals that matter most to you. Proven results in just 10 minutes a day. – Jane McGonigal
McGonigal, the developer of SuperBetter, says the app is based on the science of games, and it can help people by building three core psychological strengths –
The ability to control your attention and, therefore, your thoughts and feelings
Your power to turn anyone into a potential ally, and to strengthen your existing relationships
Your natural capacity to motivate yourself and supercharge your heroic qualities, like willpower, compassion, and determination
SuperBetter has been clinically evaluated in a randomised, controlled study, a clinical trial, and through the analysis of player data from more than 400,000 players. Overall results suggest that playing SuperBetter for 30 days improves mood, reduces symptoms of anxiety & depression and increases belief in the ability to successfully achieve goals.
Researchers conducting the RCT (Roepke et al., 2015) recruited 283 adult participants to play SuperBetter for 10 minutes every day, for 30 days. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups:
SuperBetter V1, which utilises a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and positive psychotherapy approach to target depression
SuperBetter V2, which focussed on self-esteem and acceptance
A wait-list control group
The researchers found that users of both versions of SuperBetter showed significant improvement in depressive symptoms, when compared with the wait list group, which showed no improvement over time. There was no significant difference in outcome for either SuperBetter group, indicating that both versions were as efficacious as each other in addressing depressive symptoms. These results are very promising for the use of mobile technology and game mechanics as a novel and complimentary mental health support. However, it is important to understand these findings in the context of limitations of the study; small sample size, treatment fidelity, attrition, measurement and generalisability.
While SuperBetter is not a stand-alone treatment for mental health concerns, it is a very promising tool, which has been shown to provide quality, complementary, and thoroughly researched mental health support for anyone with a mobile phone.
Have you tried it? Tell us what you think!
Roepke, A. M., Jaffee, S. R., Riffle, O. M., McGonigal, J., Broome, R., & Maxwell, B. (2015). Randomized controlled trial of superbetter, a smartphone-based/internet-based self-help tool to reduce depressive symptoms. Games for Health Journal, 4(3), 235-46. doi:10.1089/g4h.2014.0046