Play, don’t replay! HELP PREVENT PTSD

In Uncategorized on March 27, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Please join our effort to help prevent post-traumatic stress disorder by learning and sharing this simple technique:

If you experience or witness a trauma, play a pattern-matching videogame such as Tetris or Candy Crush Saga as soon as possible, ideally within the first six hours after the event.

Play the game for at least 30 minutes. It may help to play the game again immediately before going to sleep that same night.

It sounds too simple to work, but this simple technique has been scientifically investigated – and the evidence suggests that it can and will help.

fullscreen tetris


Researchers at Oxford University tested a theory that playing the videogame Tetris as soon as possible after witnessing or experiencing a trauma could prevent flashbacks, one of the most painful and difficult-to-treat symptoms of PTSD.

How it works: Games like Tetris (and Candy Crush Saga, Bejeweled, SpaceWar, etc) are so visually absorbing, they prevent your brain from concentrating on what you saw, and therefore block your brain from forming long-term visual memories of the trauma.

The researchers successfully tested their theory in a laboratory setting — Tetris DID prevent flashbacks. But it’s much more difficult to test with real trauma in real-world situations. Would it work in real life? That’s what we want to help find out.


This project is designed to teach as many people as possible this simple technique, and to collect stories from individuals who have tried it in their own lives.

Stories collected so far include individuals such as a runner who successfully used this technique after witnessing the Boston Marathon bombing, and a student who used this technique to cope with media coverage from a nearby school shooting.


If you or someone you love experiences or witness a trauma such as a motor vehicle accident, a physical injury, a rape, a physical assault, a violent crime, the loss of a pet, a workplace accident, the death of a loved one, this technique could help prevent flashbacks and nightmares.

These are terrible things to imagine happening, but if they do, this simple cognitive vaccine could prevent months or even years of suffering.

To make it easier to remember during a crisis, just think: “PLAY, don’t REPLAY.” Play a game, to avoid replaying the trauma over and over again in your mind. “PLAY, don’t REPLAY” is the stop-drop-and-roll of preventing PTSD.

Tetris is free to play at http://www.freetetris.org/. Bejeweled is free to play at http://www.popcap.com/games/bejeweled2/online.

Here’s how you can help prevent PTSD today:

Please SPREAD THE WORD: Share this page with as many people as possible — via Twitter, Facebook, or email.

This technique only works if you know about it before you experience or witness a trauma. That’s why we need to teach as many people as we can now, in case they need it one day in the future.

To make it easier to remember during a crisis, just think: “PLAY, not REPLAY.” Play a game, to avoid replaying the trauma over and over again in your mind. “PLAY, not REPLAY” is the stop-drop-and-roll of preventing PTSD.


How you can help prevent PTSD in the FUTURE:

SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE: If you or a loved one ever has the need to use this technique, please send an email to playnotreplay@gmail.com letting us know. We would love to ask you a few simple questions (such as what game you played, how soon after the trauma, and whether you experienced flashbacks or nightmares) so we can start to learn more about whether this technique works, and how much it helps, in real-world situations.

Questions we might be able to answer: How can this videogame “cognitive vaccine” be incorporated into first-response to traumas, in hospitals, schools, or police settings? Is it even possible for someone to focus attention on a videogame immediately after a traumatic event, or are some events so traumatic that concentrating on anything at all is nearly impossible? Does this technique help more with those who witness, but are not directly impacted by the trauma?


For more information about this project, reach out to Jane McGonigal, PhD @avantgame on Twitter.

For more information about the Tetris “cognitive vaccine” technique, you can read coverage in Time Magazine, Wired Magazine, Discover Magazine, and Psychology Today.

This project is not associated with Oxford University, or their researchers. It is an independent effort. It is not affiliated with or supported by the makers of Tetris, or any other videogame company for that matter!

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