@Warcraft improves cognitive ability in older adults

There are plenty of brains in Warcraft
via @tomshardware, playing MMO games like World of Warcraft can help improve cognitive ability among older adults, according to a study at North Carolina State University:

Researchers from North Carolina State University have found that playing WoW actually boosted cognitive functioning for older adults – particularly those adults who had scored poorly on cognitive ability tests before playing the game.

“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,” says Dr. Anne McLaughlin, an assistant professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of a paper on the study. “We found there were improvements, but it depended on each participant’s baseline cognitive functioning level.”

Researchers from NC State’s Gains Through Gaming laboratory first tested the cognitive functioning of study participants, aged 60 to 77, to set a baseline. The researchers looked at cognitive abilities including spatial ability, memory and how well participants could focus their attention.

More information on the study here and here’s a link to the actual study at Science Direct.

This is unsurprising, because WoW’s complexity really scales with the player. You can easily access the game as a total noob but if you’re a diehard theorycrafter you cam minmax your way into elitist heaven. And there’s an entire social layer on top of that – you can play the game solo if you prefer, but from guilds to PUGs to PVP there’s plenty of actual human interaction that forces teamwork, competition, etc. There’s even a free market economy and the occasional plague. I think that the cognitive benefits for people with higher baseline are going to be more subtle, but like the Nintendo Wii I think that there’s an argument to be made for WoW in particular to become part of the therapists’ arsenal.