Is there hope for video games? Yes!

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Had a most stimulating visit this afternoon to College Track at  their East Palo Alto site, where I met with their inspired site director, Sharifa Wilson, their ACT trainer, Ed Harris and College Track’s Director of New Initiatives, Geraldine Sonobe.  College Track is a growing program that works with under-resourced high school students to give them the nurturing they need to get into college. After the meeting I was buzzing with possibility.

I got on train to San Francisco where I met a young Israeli, Shai Magzimof,who works in the game development business. We had an animated talk about video games and my developing them as vehicles to train students in stress reduction (I know, it sounds like an oxymoron).  On the train Shai introduced me to a few games. I found them mildly amusing, especially the challenge of keeping myself calm as the game was pushing my nervous system in the direction of getting over-amped. But of course, I had my usual question: what’s really going on here? (usual answer: not much).   Shai was on his way to hear Fred Markus speak at a meeting of game developers at Dolby Studios in San Francisco, and I asked him if I could tag along.

Fred Markus is one of the most prominent people in the field of game development, now working as a Studio Creative Director at LucasArts. Fred’s experienced, sage, down-to-earth advice, his wry humor and his deep appreciation of what goes on with games and what needs to go on, was all refreshing– and hopeful. He completely gets it about the relationship between stress and performance. His talk confirmed my long-held belief that there’s a big window waiting to be opened onto the landscape of video games as being vehicles for true training and learning, rather than what they mostly do now: turning up the volume on your already stressed out sympathetic nervous system so you become, as Fred aptly put it “a dopamine junkie.”   I sure hope there are other enlightened souls in this business who get what’s really going on with most video games and can see their real potential.

BTW: If you haven’t already read it, check out the article I was asked to write for the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s largest English newspaper. Titled, The Fine Balance Between Stress and Stimulation, you’ll get my two cents on the subject.


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