Video games and creativity go hand in hand


A new Michigan State study finds that kids who play more video games also tend to be more creative. Photo by Flickr user Brit.

Video games have been linked with many, many traits in players, both children and adults. Aggression? Check. Violence? Check. Decrease in criminal activity? Check. Faster reflexes? Check. Better spatial awareness? Check.

Now we can add a new trait to the list: creativity.

Linda Jackson, a professor of psychology at Michigan State, studied 500 12-year-olds who use different kinds of media: cell phones, the Internet, and video games, and tracked their responses on two creativity tests.

In the first test, the kids were given a sheet of paper with an egg shape on it and asked to incorporate it into a larger drawing, to “think of a picture that no one else will think of.” They were challenged to tell an exciting story with the picture.

In the second test, the kids looked at a picture of an elf looking into a reflective pool of water, and then wrote down questions about the picture, and list causes and possibilities for the scene.

Children who played video games — whether they were violent or nonviolent video games — scored higher on all measures of creativity. In fact, the more they played, the better: “Regardless of the type of videogame that children played, more play was associated with greater creativity,” according to the study.

Kids who used computers, the Internet, or cell phones didn’t score any higher than average. Those results held true even when researchers looked at gender, ethnicity, and age — those factors didn’t make a dent on kids’ creativity scores.

However, the study doesn’t prove that gaming makes kids more creative.

We cannot conclude that being creative causes children to play videogames, perhaps because videogame playing satisfies some creative need. Nor can we say that playing videogames causes children to be creative, perhaps because of the rich and colorful visual world of videogames, their rapidly changing scenes, and the need to hold multiple images in mind simultaneously while playing.

Why do you think the video-game kids in this study scored higher on creativity tests? Did the video games make them more creative? Or do creative kids just play more video games?

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