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A Facebook Game That Saves Lives—And Could Change Yours

Happiness Expert Matthew Della Porta, Ph.D. reviews A Better World.

Courtesy of A Better World/Facebook
better life

Oh, how the time flies when you're on Facebook. You can lose hours looking through your Newsfeed to get the latest updates on your family and friends or playing one of the many game apps. But how about getting—and giving—something back while you're on Facebook? In this edition of Cloud Nine, I want to talk about A Better World, a Facebook game that stands out from all of the rest. Indeed, this is no ordinary game; when you play, your actions in the game make a life-saving difference in the real world.

Set in the context of a colorful virtual world with nearly 100,000 players, A Better World is a fun and lighthearted way to practice happiness strategies, including expressing gratitude and doing acts of kindness. Sounds good, right? Well, there's more. Just by playing and having fun you are helping to save lives. In this game, everybody wins!

ToonUps, the creators of A Better World, have partnered with the non-profit organization CURE and have pledged to pay for three life-saving surgeries for impoverished children once 6 million good deeds are performed within the game. They plan on reaching this goal by the end of this year.

MORE: Think People Are Kind? Your Life is Sweeter

A Better World begins with creating your own customizable character. With this character you will explore the in-game world, interact with other players and play games. The more you play, more areas of the virtual world become accessible and more clothes and accessories become available to customize your avatar. It's a lot of fun to continue exploring and to style your character with different looks. Each time you begin playing you are given a checklist of things to do, but you can freely explore the virtual world if that's more your style.

Send a get well card to a sick kid.
better world   positive post[2]

As I played I discovered several games and features that allowed me to practice effective happiness-boosting activities. My favorite in-game activity is called Positive Post. Here you are able to send kind messages to other players in the game or send a get-well note to a real child with a serious medical condition. After seeing a picture of the child and learning a bit about his or her life, I wrote a get-well message. On top of that, a direct link was provided that took me to the CURE website, where I learned more about how to help the child to whom I had just written. This feature of the game is great; it seamlessly took me from my virtual world into the real world, showing me how simple it is to spread some good cheer to a child who really needs it.

The benefit of a Positive Post goes both ways. Demonstrating kindness for others has been shown to increase happiness in many psychological studies. This makes sense; when we do nice things for others, we feel like good people, which helps us feel happier. Also, most of what you do in the game contributes to the 6 million in-game good deeds, which makes those life-saving surgeries happen. To be sure, knowing that you are making such an amazing real-world difference will give you a sense of satisfaction and contentment as you play.

Three other areas of the game—the Gratitude Grotto, the Sanctuary of Hope and the Sanctuary of Prayer—give you an opportunity to express your own thoughts for other players to see. Notably, you can also see what others have already posted. If you have trouble feeling grateful, hang out in the Gratitude Grotto for a bit and you'll see a waterfall of other users’ grateful posts, which may inspire you to add your own. There is good reason to do this. Expressing gratitude helps you to maintain an accurate perspective on life. It can be easy to continuously fixate on how things could be better, but gratitude helps you understand how much worse things could be and how fortunate you are to have what you have.

QUIZ: Which of Your Hobbies Make You The Happiest?

My avatar at the Gratitude Grotto
better world   gratitude grotto[3]

In the Sanctuary of Hope you can express a desire or wish for other people to see. Hope is very beneficial because it provides a foundation for optimism and positive thinking. For example, if you express hope that the world's natural environment will improve, you'll take greater joy in using green technology, recycling, celebrating Earth Day. By having hope you see the little things as positive, concrete steps toward greater good, rather than feeling hopeless and that your efforts are a waste of time.

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