What does the app do?
SuperBetter is a motivational app that comprises a series of games and challenges. By using words that relate to gaming the app aims to get you to build on your strengths and overcome your weaknesses. The app has categories that have some science behind them. For example 'power-ups' are anything that makes you feel better which in turn sparks positive emotions, 'quests' enable you to track your daily and weekly goals, 'bad guys' involves battling bad habits and mindsets, 'allies' are your strong social relationships and 'future boosts' are things you look forward to.
For the complete app description, go to Google Play, iTunes or the app website and for a detailed review, see Reviews.
✔ Has had a successful clinical trial showing improvement in depression after 6 weeks, and a second trial showing improvement in post-concussion symptoms after 3-6 weeks.
✔ Design built in collaboration with experts in neuroscience, positive psychology and medicine.
✔ Uses evidence based psychological strategies such as cognitive behavioural therapy, acceptance commitment therapy and positive psychological therapy.
✔ Uses ‘gamification’ to increase users’ drive to achieve their goals (divided into physical, mental, emotional and social dimensions). Level up, get power ups, go on quests, make allies and fight bad guys.
✔ Has an integrated website and an optional companion book.
✘ Text based format, minimal visual appeal, lack of utility of the leveling system, and limited interactive content. Layout can be confusing to a new user - easier with repeated use
✘ Links within quest system are broken.
✘ Minimal cohesion between app components.
✘ Content within power ups, quests and bad guys are all static, not responding to use (e.g. the “sticky chair” bad guy will always tell you to take a single step away from the chair. It won’t advance beyond this with use).
✘ Difficult to determine which power up is related to which goal.
Privacy and security
Date of review: April 2018
Platform reviewed: Android
Download size: 4.68 MB
Updated on 06/03/2018
Roepke AM, Jaffee SR, Riffle OM, McGonigal J, et al. Randomized Controlled Trial of SuperBetter, a Smartphone-Based/Internet-Based Self-Help Tool to Reduce Depressive Symptoms. Games Health J. 2015 Jun;4(3):235-46.
Payne HE, Moxley VB, MacDonald E. Health Behavior Theory in Physical Activity Game Apps: A Content Analysis. JMIR Serious Games. 2015 Jul 13;3(2):e4.
Did you find this information useful?
Reviewer: Dr Jeremy Steinberg, GP
Date of review: April 2018
Comments: This app (and optional associated website, book and TED talk) is a tool to help you ‘gamify’ your life in order to reach your physical, mental, emotional and social goals — level up, get power ups, go on quests, make allies and fight bad guys.
At its core the app is a text based list of goals and associated psychological strategies with an overlay of gaming language.
It has been validated in a six week clinical trial for depression and anxiety, and a second trial for post-concussion syndrome. It uses proven psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy. The app claims to help with any goal but there is no research to support this.
There is unfortunately limited guidance and non-working hyperlinks in the app. I recommend using the associated website, watching the TED talk and logging on to the browser based ‘secret lab’ to understand the system.
The app has a text based format with minimal visual appeal. There is a lack of utility of the levelling system, and text within the Power Ups, Quests and Bad Guys appear to be all static, not responding to use. There is is also limited cohesion between the different components.
Overall, I would recommend it for anyone interested in a gamification approach who has mild depression, anxiety or post-concussion syndrome. You would need to be already somewhat motivated to change. It could also be used for other goals but it hasn’t been studied in this setting.
Safety concerns: None