Playing Minecraft can boost creativity, study

The next time you need to get the creative juices flowing, playing some types of video games may help.


Contrary to the traditional belief that gaming is merely an addictive source of entertainment and diversion, recent research focused on rarely tested outcome: creative production.

The study conducted by Iowa State University suggests that playing video games boosts creativity. Playing video games promote creative freedom and thus can increase creativity under certain conditions.

Scientists compared the impact of playing Minecraft, with or without guidance, to watching a TV show or playing a race car video game. Those given the opportunity to play Minecraft without supervision were generally inventive.

Minecraft is like a virtual Lego world. The game, which has sold more than 100 million copies, allows players to explore unique worlds and create anything they can imagine.

Study participants were split into groups with some playing Minecraft and others playing a race car video game or watching TV.
Study participants were split into groups with some playing Minecraft and others playing a race car video game or watching TV.

During the study, scientists randomly assigned participants and categorized into two groups. The one receiving instruction was told to play as creatively as possible.

After 40 minutes of play or sitting in front of the TV, the 352 members completed several creativity assignments. To gauge innovative generation, they were approached to draw an animal from a world vastly different than Earth. Progressively human-like animals scored low for creativity, and those fewer human-like scored high. Shockingly, those taught to be creative while playing Minecraft were the least imaginative.

Douglas Gentile, a professor of psychology, said, “It’s not just that Minecraft can help induce creativity. There seems to be something about choosing to do it that also matters. However, there’s no clear explanation for this finding.”

Jorge Blanco-Herrera, lead author and former master’s student in psychology sao, said, “Being told to be creative may have limited their options while playing, resulting in a less creative experience. It’s also possible they used all their ‘creative juices’ while playing and had nothing left when it came time to complete the test.”

Most video games encourage players to practice some level of creativity. For example, players may create a character and story for role-playing games or be rewarded for creative strategies in competitive sports. The researchers say even first-person shooter games can potentially inspire creativity as players think about policy and look for advantages in combat.

Gentile said, “The research is starting to tell a more interesting, nuanced picture. Our results are similar to other gaming research in that you get better at what you practice, but how you practice might matter just as much.”

Scientists noted, “based on these findings, it is important not to disregard the potential video games have as engaging and adaptive educational opportunities.”

The study is published in the Creativity Research Journal.

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