Professors at North Carolina University discovered that some older adults improved their spatial ability and focus after playing World of Warcraft for two hours a day, over a two-week period.
Who ever said video games were bad for you? Ironically, a generation that is more known for their savvy Bingo and Bridge prowess is showing interest and improved cognitive ability by playing the technologically advanced video game, World of Warcraft.
World of Warcraft is currently ranked as the world’s most popular multiplayer role-playing game, with more than 15 million subscribers, according to stats from Guinness World Records. Hours are definitely logged in this game, but benefits have never been assessed (aside from enjoyment, that is). But Anne McLaughlin and Jason Allaire, psychology professors at North Carolina State University who run a “Gains Through Gaming Lab,” ran a test to determine whether the game could make peoples’ “brains work better who were at a relatively advanced age.” And the findings? Intriguing, to say the least…
Cognitive Improvements Seen In People Who “Needed it Most”
The experiment involved 39 adults, aged 60 to 77, to play World of Warcraft for roughly two hours a day over a two-week period. There were two groups involved in the study:
- Test group — A group given a cognitive exam both before the test period began and after the experiment ended.
- Control group — A group given the same cognitive exams, that didn’t play the game.
At the end of the two weeks, the people who had scored well on the baseline test had little change to their scores. But the people who had initially scored low showed significant improvement in both spatial ability and focus, after their exposure to the video game.
“The people who needed it most — those who performed the worst on the initial testing — saw the most improvement,” Allaire said.
Results of the study were published in the peer reviewed journal, “Computers in Human Behavior.”
The Scientists’ Choice: World of Warcraft’s Cognitive Appeal
While the results are interesting; they make sense. We all know that exercising the mind is important. The brain is a muscle and needs stimulation, after all. And World of Warcraft, in particular, is a very engaging game. In fact, Allaire and McLaughlin were selective when choosing the appropriate video game for their study:
“It [World of Warcraft] met a bunch of criteria we had,” Allaire said. “Primarily that it is really engaging and cognitively complex, so we chose a game that we thought would have the best chance of exercising older adults’ cognitive abilities and thereby improving them.”
World of Warcraft’s scaffolding (or tutorials that help someone who is not familiar with video games figure out how to make their way around the game) and customizable interface (allowing for larger text for game readability) also came in handy when choosing an appropriate game.
And a Fun Side-Note!
Many of the seniors who participated in the study really enjoyed the game and have become fans. Even though the study is complete, they continue to play the engaging game—a hobby that is now known to be healthy for both their IQ and mental capacities!
- World of Warcraft Boosts Cognitive Functioning in Older Adults (psychcentral.com)
- World of Warcraft may boost seniors’ cognitive ability: Study (cbsnews.com)