Jane McGonigal was the opening keynote at ISTE this year. She explained that there are now 1 billion gamers worldwide who play for at least one hour per day. This is good news for learning and education and for those who want to solve world problems as these gamers make up a network that can change the world.
She talked about a worrying statistic: the longer you stay in school the less engaged you become. In the USA studies have shown that 76% of elementary students are engaged but only 44% of high school students. However if you look at gaming you see a different pattern - 7 billion hours a week of maximum engagement with 99% of boys and 94% of girls under 18 playing games. Put into layman's terms, it took 100 million hours to create Wikipedia. This is the same number of hours that gamers spend in 7 days playing Call of Duty.
Jane talked about what gamers want - why do they play games. She explained it is all about positive emotions (see the photograph I took of the slide she presented above). Three quarters of gamers are engaged in cooperative games which create positive emotions - and these positive emotions persist despite that fact that gamers fail 80% of the time.
She said that the opposite of play isn't work - it's depression and there is now medical evidence that supports how playing games is good for your emotional health. The parts of your brain that stop lighting up when you are depressed are the ones that are active when gaming. Your brain becomes goal oriented so that it can get better. Because we fail 80% of the time the brain is constantly engaged in learning how to do better - gamers are constantly in the learning zone.
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