Most of us can recall the cooling of a hot summer day as it faded into night, playing tag or hide and seek for hours, strategizing with friends where to hide, running as fast as possible, laughing through exhaustion. We lost track of time, fatigue went unnoticed; we experienced passion. Passion is a strong desire to engage in activities we enjoy or that we deem important, activities worth devoting large investments of our time and energy (Vallerand, et al., 2006). The most passionate of us eventually internalize our passion as part of our self-identity (Fredricks, et al., 2002). As educators, we know that if we can spark passion within a given domain, students will devour what we teach them, and still be hungry for more.
But where is the passion in academia for a typical sophomore college student? Sadly, research by Fredricks, et al. (2010) has illustrated that typical academic settings are not only devoid of passion, they undermine it. Students do the minimum work required by traditional classes, because these classes do not satisfy their three basic psychological needs: a need for autonomy, a need for relatedness to others, and a need for competency (Ryan & Decci, 2000). As mediocrity is the celebrated norm in school and work, 72% of American households are passionately applying their underutilized smarts and talents in places where their skills are valued most, playing video games (McGonigal, 2010; ESA, 2011). A growing number of adult women accounts for 37% of all gamers (as opposed to teen males at 13%), with 55% of today’s games being played on cellphones or handheld devices. Interestingly, the market share of games sold belongs to intelligent games of strategy, with 65% of games played in person with other gamers (ESA, 2011). In McGonigal’s words, “we are creating a massive virtual silo of cognitive effort, emotional energy, and collective attention lavished on game worlds instead of real worlds (2010, p. 4).