Do video games invigorate kids' creative sides? They sure do, says a new study from Michigan State University. Researchers found that both boys and girls who played games — violent or otherwise — tended to flex more creative muscles than their non-gaming counterparts. Here's what you should know before you hang an Xbox in Junior's crib:
How was this study conducted?
Researchers used a creativity-measuring tool called the Torrance Test of Creativity Figural to assess the imaginations of 500 middle-school students. The test uses "creativity exercises" like the ones administered in writing classes, "such as being tasked with drawing an interesting picture from a prompt, giving it a title, then writing about it," says James Plafke at Geekosystem. Students were then scored based on the originality, level of detail, and sheer number of ideas in their responses.
What did researchers find?
Kids who said they played a lot of video games performed better on this creativity test than kids who didn't — though researchers didn't immediately make clear how much better. Perhaps unsurprisingly, researchers found that boys, who made up the majority of the gamers, gravitate toward violent titles and sports games, while girls are drawn to games where character interaction is important. The researchers also found "no link between creativity and the use of other types of technology," says Leslie Horn at PC Mag, "including cell phones, the internet, and computers (unless they're used for video games)."
So I should make my kid play video games?
Well, maybe not. This study isn't perfect, says Elizabeth Armstrong Moore at CNET. "Instead of measuring one type of activity against another," it measures one type of activity (playing video games) against the absence of that activity. "Are the kids who don't play video games watching TV? How would the video game cohort compare to kids building their own puzzles, or making mud pies, or drawing pictures from a curved shape and then naming and writing stories about those pictures?" The answers aren't clear — so this study's conclusions should be taken with a grain of salt.