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Playing games like Minecraft can have 'big effect' on creativity

Published: 10:17, 12 July 2019
A huge Mario statue build in Minecraft, complete with his red and blue plumber suit.

Even though psychology is pretty clear on the importance of games to just about every aspect of human development, adding the 'video' moniker tends to skew those opinions to some radical ends. Well, no more, as Iowa State University proved.

Psychologist Douglas Gentile reminded that there are many pretty extreme opinions on video games.

You've probably heard the main one a million times - video games make people violent and commit shootings, but Gentile laughed it off, which we think is an awesome analysis of the said opinion.

"And so what we did is we had 352 students here at Iowa State come into our lab, and we randomly assigned them to one of four conditions", he said.

Two of them were about playing Minecraft for 40 minutes, and Gentile likened the creativity needed to play Mojang's game to Lego bricks - you can be as creative as you want while building whatever you wish. 

The third condition was also a video game, but this time they chose a Nascar Racing game. We're talking about a racing game where you turn left all the time, so it's a significantly less creative game.

The fourth condition was watching a TV show, which Gentile said was equally as engaging but still an activity where you're passively watching, rather than actively engaging with content.

Minecraft conditions differed in the following - the first one was about showing the players how to play and letting them do whatever they'd like, while the second one was about telling players to be as creative as possible and design an alien creature. 

Needless to say, players who played Minecraft were found to be more creative than any of the other conditions, but there were some surprises too.

"The real surprise was, by telling them to be creative, it actually reduced their creativity after the play. They also were much worse than playing Minecraft with no instruction", Gentile said.

Microsoft Picture of some blocky stuff in Minecraft Minecraft

"So, it's not just that Minecraft can help induce creativity, there seems to something else about actually having the freedom to be as creative as we want", he added.

Iowa State's researchers are uncertain why this instruction affects creativity, and Gentile said that it could be that they flexed or tried too hard to flex their creativity muscle, or that they subconsciously rejected the command to be creative, which will be the subject of follow up studies.

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