Video games can make us creative if spark is right

May 23, 2008

University Park, Pa. -- Video games that energize players and induce a positive mood could also enhance creativity, according to media researchers. However, the study also finds that players who were not highly energized and had a negative mood, registered the highest creativity.

"You need defocused attention for being creative," said S. Shyam Sundar, professor of film, video and media studies at Penn State. "When you have low arousal and are negative, you tend to focus on detail and become more analytical."

Sundar and Elizabeth Hutton, a Penn State graduate student, are trying to understand the value of video games as a vehicle for sparking positive social traits, such as creativity. Fun and games aside, video games are viewed as a serious communication technology. Schools, corporations and even the government are increasingly employing it as a tool in enhancing learning and decision-making.

"Video games are not just for entertainment alone," says Sundar. "We are trying to figure out how they can aid in education as well."

In the study, conducted as part of Hutton's graduate thesis, 98 undergraduate and graduate students were asked to play a popular video game, Dance Dance Revolution, at various levels of complexity. The students took a standard creativity test after playing. The researchers also took readings of the players' skin conductance and asked players if they were feeling either positive or negative after the game.

"We looked at two emotional variables: arousal and valence," said Hutton. "Arousal is the degree of physical excitation -- as measured through skin conductance -- and valence, which is the range of positive or negative feeling."

When the researchers ran a statistical analysis of the two emotional variables and the students' creativity scores, they found two totally different groups with high scores.

Players with a high degree of arousal and positive mood were most likely to have new ideas for problem solving. The statistical tests also revealed that creativity scores were highest for players with low arousal and a negative mood.

In real-life terms, the study appears to indicate that after playing the game, happy or sad people are most creative, while angry or relaxed people are not.

The findings suggest that either high or low arousal is key to creativity. In other words, medium amounts of arousal are not conducive to creativity.

"When you are highly aroused, the energy itself acts as a catalyst, and the happy mood acts as an encouragement. It is like being in a zone where you cannot be thrown off your game," explained Sundar. A negative mood, especially when there is low arousal, brings a different kind of energy that makes a person more analytical, which is crucial to creativity as well, he added.

Sundar and Hutton, the lead author on the paper, presented their findings today (May 23) at the 58th annual conference of the International Communication Association (ICA) in Montreal. Their work received a Top Paper award from the association's Game Studies division.

Researchers say that findings from the study could offer a set of rules that could be applied to a video game to see if it can make a person creative or lead to creative outcomes as soon as the game is over.

"We are not looking just at creative games, but what emotional elements of games can serve as an engine to spark creative thought and new problem solving skills," said Sundar, who is also a founder of the Penn State Media Effects Research Laboratory.

He envisions a scenario in which the emotional drivers that video games provide could be harnessed for creative outcomes, either in a classroom setting, or for corporate decision-making.

"The key is to generate emotion," explained Sundar. "Ideally, a good teacher can energize the class and make them much more emotionally invested through presentations, guest lectures, and group discussions. Video games can help achieve that in an already simulated way."
-end-
The Penn State Media Effects Research Laboratory is at http://www.psu.edu/dept/medialab

Penn State

Related Video Games Articles from Brightsurf:

Video games improve the visual attention of expert players
Long-term experiences of action real-time strategy games leads to improvements in temporal visual selective attention.

Study questions video games' effects on violent behavior
A new Contemporary Economic Policy study finds that there is not enough information to support the claim that violent video games lead to acts of violence.

Do video games drive obesity?
Are children, teenagers and adults who spend a lot of time playing video games really more obese?

DeepMind's new gamer AI goes 'for the win' in multiplayer first-person video games
DeepMind researchers have taught artificially intelligent gamers to play a popular 3D multiplayer first-person video game with human-like skills -- a previously insurmountable task.

How does dark play impact the effectiveness of serious video games?
A new study has shown that allowing ''dark play'' in a serious video game intended to practice skills transferable to a real-life setting does not impact the game's effectiveness.

Study: Collaborative video games could increase office productivity
Move over trust falls and ropes courses, turns out playing video games with coworkers is the real path to better performance at the office.

Pitt researcher uses video games to unlock new levels of A.I.
Dr. Jiang designs algorithms that learn decision strategies in complex and uncertain environments like video games.

For blind gamers, equal access to racing video games
Computer Scientist Brian A. Smith has developed the RAD -- a racing auditory display -- to enable visually impaired gamers play the same types of racing games that sighted players play with the same speed, control, and excitement as sighted players.

Video games to improve mobility after a stroke
A joint research by the Basque research center BCBL and the London Imperial College reveals that, after a cerebral infarction, injuries in areas that control attention also cause motility problems.

No evidence to support link between violent video games and behaviour
Researchers at the University of York have found no evidence to support the theory that video games make players more violent.

Read More: Video Games News and Video Games Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.