Two gaming experts visit the Vail Symposium Thursday to explain the positive power of play |

Two gaming experts visit the Vail Symposium Thursday to explain the positive power of play

Video games can be helpful in creating cognitive abilities in both children and adults, some researchers say. Two video game industry leaders, Laura Naviaux and John Blakely , will be in Edwards for a Vail Symposium event on the subject.
Special to the Daily |

If you go …

What: “How Video Games are Developing the Leaders of Tomorrow,” with Laura Naviaux and John Blakely, moderated by Jeanette McMurtry.

When: Thursday, March 3; 5:30 p.m. reception and 6 p.m. program.

Where: Colorado Mountain College, 150 Miller Ranch Road, Edwards.

Cost: $10, or free for students and teachers.

More information: Register at or by calling 970-476-0954.

Around the world, 1.23 billion people spend an hour a day playing video games.

We spend 1.75 billion minutes a day playing Candy Crush.

But our brains may actually be improving by playing video games, say two gaming industry leaders.

Laura Naviaux and John Blakely will present breakthroughs in video games and discuss how games are becoming important for cognitive and critical thinking, life skills and career paths.

Naviaux is the chief publishing officer at Daybreak Games, previously Sony Online Entertainment, where she is responsible for player cultivation. She will discuss the current trends in video games and how to manage play to build skills such as strategy, decision-making and concentration. She will also discuss how to develop other positive behaviors while maintaining a healthy balance in the real and virtual worlds.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Blakely, chief product officer at Sphero, is an inventor of digital toys and games that entertain while teaching players computer coding and other technical skills. Blakely will share how digital toys teach life and job skills, open up new possibilities for children and how the changing world of play will inevitably impact society.

His company produces BB-8, that soccer ball-looking droid from the new “Star Wars” movie that you can control with a smart phone app.

The Power of Play

Movies and other media based on video games have become a license to print money in Hollywood and other places. While society has historically taught us to beware the ills of video games, the power of play is now shifting to a more positive light, Blakely said.

Games can even help improve brain activity in aging or injured adults.

After game designer Jane McGonigal suffered a serious brain injury a few years ago, she created “Jane the Concussion Slayer,” based on popular role-playing games. She gave herself “power-ups” when she reached new benchmarks in the healing process.

She’s turned it all into a program called “SuperBetter.” She told Time magazine that it activates a “gameful mindset” that helps people heal better and faster.

The American Psychological Association publishes a wealth of research showing that video games can be put to educational and therapeutic uses, improving reaction times and hand-eye coordination.

The National Academy of Sciences published a study by Vikranth Bejjanki and colleagues demonstrating that playing action video games — the shoot-em-up action games decried by parents and other doomsayers — confirms that players show improved performance in perception, attention and cognition.

“With time, the attitude toward video games across multiple generations is changing,” said Julie Norberg, the Vail Symposium’s executive director. “People are starting to take notice of how playing games can develop important skills in the world of tomorrow.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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