Posted on February 24, 2012, Ross Lincoln University Study: World of Warcraft Boosts The Brains Of The Elderly
Rejoice, gamers. The uncomfortable silences you get when trying to explain to your parents and grandparents what it is you do on your computer may finally come to an end, thanks to a North Carolina State University study indicating that World of Warcraft might improve mental functioning in older people.
Researchers tested two groups of subjects ages 60 to 77 on a range of cognitive abilities like spatial ability, memory and ability to focus attention. An initial test established a baseline congnitive ability, after which the experimental test group were instructed to spend 14 hours playing World of Warcraft at home during a two week period. The control group did not play WoW. Each group was retested at the end of the fortnight, at which time it was discovered that the gaming group saw a dramatically higher increase in cognitive functioning over their previous results.
Though the effect of level grinding and questing varied based on the test subject’s initial score, the study found that those who initially scored low saw the most improvement. In fact, the worse a subject performed in the initial test, the better they performed in the follow up. The improvements were not seen in all three study categories. Test subjects experienced measurable improvements in spatial ability and focus, but memory remained unchanged.
The study only looked at the effect of World of Warcraft; presumably, it did not factor for a growing obsession with Felicia Day. The upshot for the rest of us, however, is that we might be able to make our family reunions a lot more pleasant by giving a subscription to WoW to our parents and grandparents. After all, arguing about new freemium features is way less exhausting than trying not to accidentally mention whatever latest political outrage they’re obsessed with. Just don’t break out the Monopoly set. The study’s abstract is available here.