Study finds some video games can boost creativity in players

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Someone who wants to increase their creativity may benefit from playing certain types of video games, according to a new study out of Iowa State University. The researchers looked at massively popular game Minecraft, the entire basis of which is creating new worlds and structures, and found that players experienced increased creativity later on. There was an exception among these players, however, indicating that not all gameplay is the same.

Minecraft encourages creativity by giving players what is essentially a blank canvas upon which any number of structures — including fairly complex ones — can be created. Playing the game was found to increase study participants’ ability to think up creative alien creatures, with one exception: participants who were told to play the game creatively scored lower than participants who were simply allowed to play without instructions.

The creativity boost isn’t limited to just Minecraft, however, and can reasonably be associated with any video game that encourages a high level of creativity among players. The researchers point out that many video games include at least some minor element requiring creativity, such as encouraging players to customize a character, though some games require far more creativity than others.

Iowa State University Professor of Psychology Douglas Gentile explained, “It’s not just that Minecraft can help induce creativity. There seems to be something about choosing to do it that also matters.”

It’s unclear why the study participants who were instructed to be creative in the game experienced less creativity later on, however. The study’s lead author Jorge Blanco-Herrera said that players may have ultimately limited their actions in the game as a result of trying to be creative. “It’s also possible they use all their ‘creative juices’ while playing,” Blanco-Herrera said, “and had nothing left when it came time to complete the test.”

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