Jul 09, 2019 09:14 AM EDT
Some video games may help the next time you need to get the creative juices flowing. According to new research from Iowa State University and published in Creativity Research Journal, video games that foster creative freedom can help increase creativity under specific conditions. The experimental study compared the effect of playing Minecraft, with or without instruction, to watching a TV show or playing a race car video game. Those given the freedom to play Minecraft without instruction were most creative.
A professor of psychology, Douglas Gentile, said that it is not just that Minecraft can help induce creativity. There appears to be something about choosing to do it that also matters. Gentile noted further that if anyone is not familiar with the game, 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. The study randomly assigned participants to play Minecraft, where they were split into two groups. The group they received instruction was told to play as creatively as possible.
The 352 participants completed several creativity tasks after 40 minutes of play or watch. To measure creative production, the researchers asked them to draw a creature from a world much different than Earth. More human-like creatures scored low for creativity, and those fewer human-like scored high. Surprisingly, those instructed to be creative while playing Minecraft were the least creative.
According to the lead author of the study, Blanco-Herrera, being told to be creative, may have limited their options while playing, resulting in a less creative experience. Also, it is possible they used all their creative juices while playing and had nothing left when it came time to complete the test.
Video games can have both beneficial and harmful effects. Gentile's previous research has revealed that the amount, content, and context of video games influence what players learn through repeated experiences. While much of Gentile's research has focused on aggression or prosocial behavior, he says the same appears to be true for creativity.
Most video games encourage players to practice some levels of creativity. For instance, players may create a character and story for role-playing games or be rewarded for creative strategies in competitive games. The researchers say even first-person shooter games can potentially inspire creativity as players think about strategy and look for advantages in combat. Gentile said that the research is beginning to tell a more interesting nuanced picture. Their results are similar to other gaming research in that people get better at what they practice, but how they practice might matter just as much.
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