Alex Goldman is a producer for On the Media. One time he got run over by a car.
The Superbetter Diaries Entry #3: Movin' Along
Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 04:13 PM
I'm now entering my third week using Superbetter, a game desgined to help people who have been injured or are trying to reach health goals, to deal with an traumatic injury I sustained in a bike accident. If you missed the previous articles and the story on the show about it, click here for our archive of Superbetter stories.
Since my last post, I've dispensed with all the setup and explanation, and I've recruited several of our listeners as allies in the game. Thanks to my allies, I'm starting to see the great potential of using this game to aid in my recovery.
One of Superbetter's greatest strengths is that in addition to the quests I create for myself (which, to be honest are all pretty boring and are outlined in the first post I did a couple weeks ago) my allies can create quests for me. The quests my allies have given me (with the notable exception of OTM producer PJ Vogt, to be known henceforth as "the worst ally ever") have been much more interesting and enlightening for me than anything I've come up with myself. Since the parameters of what makes a worthwhile quest are very loosely prescribed (Superbetter offers ideas, but doesn't lay down any hard and fast rules), it's the variety of the quests that are given to me as that makes the game interesting.
Below are a few of the quests that my allies have sent me on since my last entry. While some of them may not seem directly related to my long term goal of riding my bike one time around Prospect Park (which is about 3.5 miles), they require me to engage in ways I haven't since I had my accident, and to focus on individually attainable goals.
Friend Omar on Twitter - Superbetter creator Jane McGonigal happens to be one of my allies, which is incredibly helpful in guiding the way I use the game. Her first quest for me was to follow Michael K. Williams on Twitter. He's the actor who portrayed Omar Little (my Superbetter secret identity) on the TV show The Wire. Jane noted that he tends to use his twitter feed as though he were a life coach for the entire Twitterverse. For example, this was one of the first tweets I saw when I went to his page:
He's a pretty encouraging dude.
Find an Omar Mantra - Jane's second quest for me was to find an Omar quote from The Wire to use as inspiration to reach my epic win. Initially, I was thinking about going with "it's all in the game," because it seems so appropriate to the milieu I'm working in. But I settled on "You come at the king, you best not miss." Makes me sound pretty tough, eh?
Draw a Picture of Yourself Riding Around Prostect Park - I had no idea how difficult it was for someone who has ridden a bike every day for years of his life to draw a bike, but it was very, very hard. Something about the geometry of a bicycle and the position of the rider gives me a new found respect for the animators behind The Triplets of Belleville. I spent about three hours on this one, but it eventually, paid off, I think.
Get new toys for the cats, and go buy your wife a flower -- all on foot. Condition: you must spend a recuperative amount of time on your feet getting to the store, buying the toy(s), and/or playing with the cats - This was one of those things I could have cheated on pretty easily, since flowers and cat toys are both attainable at stores relatively close to my apartment. To make this quest worthwhile, I decided to take the subway two stops past where I normally get off and walk back to my house from there, picking up cat toys and flowers on the way. As you can see below, the cat toy was a huge success, bringing my cats, who usually can't stand each other, together against a common enemy.
As for the flower, I ended up getting several as opposed to just one. They ended up going over pretty well with the family too.
Walk a part of the Prospect Park bike path - Last Sunday, I actually did one better and walked the entire bike path. This quest was probably the most directly related to my physical recuperation and, as such it was probably the most difficult. I cheated a bit by also using this as a way of completing a separate quest that asked me to do something that I hadn't done since the accident. Fortunately, it was a beautiful afternoon, and Brooke Gladstone was nice enough to invite me over to her house for an amazing brunch before my big walk (jealous?) so when the time came, I was well-fed and ready to go.
Grab a Beer - "Big Guy," the ally who suggested I walk part of the bike Prospect Park bike trail, also gave me a reason to complete a loop on foot - a $15 gift certificate at a bar called Pacific Standard, not far from the park. After my walk around the park, I celebrated with a drink. Pictured to the right is the gift certificate and the celebratory beer. My ally's name has been blacked out to protect his secret identity.
Create a Ride Mix Tape - Being a pretty big music fan, I found myself obsessing over putting together the perfect mix (even though I'm a little iffy about riding with earbuds in.) after hours of compiling, I managed to narrow my list of songs to about 30. I'm not a big lyrics guy, so the songs are not chock full of life affirming can-do lyrics or anything, but it's up tempo music that would be perfect to ride a bike to. Quest complete.
Throughout my two weeks using Superbetter, the one quest that's remained incomplete is to set up my stationary bike and start riding again. Symbolically, it just seems really big. But I've got to do it eventually, so next week will be all about training on my stationary bike. I'd like to say thanks to all of my allies and encourage you to keep giving me quests. I'm probably going to do another mini-update on Friday, so until then - you come at the king, you best not miss.