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Playing World of Warcraft Improves Old People's Minds

| 22 Feb 2012 20:49
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A study showed playing Wow helped senior citizens think better after just a short time.

World of Warcraft is many things to different people. Some players love the social aspect of forming parties and guilds, while others love min-maxing their Undead rogue until he is the bane of all gnomes and dwarves. Beyond the pleasure of playing WoW, there may not be much good coming from the countless hours some people spend in Azeroth, but according to a study conducted at North Carolina State University there is a demonstrable positive effect in playing WoW on the brains of old people.

The setup for the experiment was pretty simple. First, researchers tested senior citizens from 60 to 77 years of age on cognitive functions like memory, spatial reasoning and attention span. Then they split up the groups, with one side instructed to play 14 hours of WoW over a two week period. The researchers tested all the seniors again, and found that the people who initially scored poorly on spatial ability and attention were significantly improved after playing WoW. There was little difference in those that already scored high in those areas or who didn't play the game.

"Among participants who scored well on baseline cognitive functioning tests, there was no significant improvement after playing WoW - they were already doing great," said Dr. Anne McLaughlin, one of the authors of the study published in the online journal Computers in Human Behavior. "But we saw significant improvement in both spatial ability and focus for participants who scored low on the initial baseline tests."

With so many videogames to choose from, why did the study focus on an MMO? "We chose World of Warcraft because it has attributes we felt may produce benefits - it is a cognitively challenging game in a socially interactive environment that presents users with novel situations," continued McLaughlin.

Memory was one aspect of that didn't see a lot of improvement in the seniors playing WoW. I'm not sure what that means exactly, but it certainly explains all of the WoW guide websites like Wowhead for people who can't remember the number of kobold spines they need to collect from the quest text they just read.

Source: NCSU

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