Can Video Games Improve Creativity?

Creativity is a valued skill for twenty-first-century children. Many jobs and activities in the twenty-first century will not require traditional skills but instead rely on innovative ways to solve problems.

Many people believe creativity to be something people are born with, but this may not be the case. Environments rich with stimulation are likely to aid in the development of creative thinking. Are video games (environments that are filled with stimulation that cannot be found in the real world) capable of fostering the creative process?

Conventional wisdom suggests that the specific characters and structures in video games make them less conducive to creativity than traditional or free play. However, longitudinal research conducted from the 1980s into the present suggests that kids have become more creative rather than less. However, there is a strong need for further research in this area before any conclusions can be drawn.

Creativity and innovation can frequently be seen in open video game platforms such as Scratch, a suite of interactive media creation tools from MIT, or Crayon Physics. Sandbox games such as Minecraft, Terraria, and Grand Theft Auto require creativity and innovation in gameplay. In addition, many gamers further practice the use of these skills in a variety of activities inspired by their play by modding the game, creating a website, contributing to a wiki, or participating in forums.

To learn more about this important topic, check out some of these straightforward scholarly articles that reflect the current state of the science. You can also access our lengthy bibliography by clicking here.

Bergen, D. (2009). Play as the learning medium for future scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. American Journal of Play, 413-428.

Today, playful methods of learning are rarely integrated into school classrooms. Creative play times such as recess are being minimized to the point of nonexistence. While that is an unfortunate statement on its own, it becomes even more troublesome when combined with the fact that many professional fields are in need of creative and innovative thinkers. Author Doris Bergen discusses the importance of having play return to classrooms,  

Gallagher, D., & Grimm, L. R. (2018). Making an impact: The effects of game making on creativity and spatial processing. Thinking Skills and Creativity,28, 138-149.

“[The authors focus] on identifying a method to improve both creativity and spatial abilities, as [they believe] spatial ability predicts the likelihood to succeed in a STEM field (Wai et al., 2009)” (Gallagher & Grimm et al., 2018).

Moffat, D. C., Crombie, W., & Shabalina, O. (2017). Some video games can increase the players creativity. International Journal of Game-Based Learning,7(2), 35-46.

“In this study,  [the researchers tested] the possibility that different sorts of video games may have different effects, on different types of creativity; or none at all.”

Ott, M., & Pozzi, F. (2012). Digital games as creativity enablers for children. Behaviour & Information Technology, 31(10), 1-9.

Many people wonder whether games-based learning can have an effect on a child’s creativity. Results of this 3-year research study allow us to learn more about this relationship, and show us just how useful digital tools can be for increasing creativity.

Quenqua, D. (2013). Study finds spatial skill Is early sign of creativity. New York Times, p. A12. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/16/us/study-finds-early-signs-of-creativity-in-adults.html

Study finds that testing children for spatial reasoning may be a strong predictor of achievement later in life, especially in regards to fields pertaining to math and science. Findings make a strong case for rewriting standardized tests in order to incorporate spatial ability and find children who excel in this area at a young age.

Resnick, M. (2007). Sowing the seeds for a more creative society. Learning and leading with technology: The ISTE Journal of Educational Technology Practice and Policy, 18-22.

For many generations, kids in school have been taught to solve the same routine problems. But in a world that is constantly changing, isn’t it more important to teach students how to adapt to unforeseen problems? The author discusses two new pieces of technology he has developed, the Crickets and Scratch, and how they support a “creative thinking spiral.”

Russ, S., & Dillon, J. (2011). Changes in children’s pretend play over two decades. Creativity Research Journal, 23(4), 330-338.

The lack of time that is dedicated to play has become a topic of much concern. As a result, findings have shown that different and creative thinking ability is decreasing in children. Using a puppet play task and the Affect in Play Scale, this study done over the span of 23 years finds that imagination and comfort in play significantly increased over time.

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