Skill at multiplayer video games and intelligence linked

A link between young people's ability to perform well at two popular video games and high levels of intelligence has been uncovered.



Researchers at the University of York have discovered a link between young people's ability to perform well at two popular video games and high levels of intelligence.

Studies carried out at the Digital Creativity Labs (DC Labs) at York found that some action strategy video games can act like IQ tests. The researchers' findings are published today in the journal PLOS ONE.


The York researchers stress the studies have no bearing on questions such as whether playing computer games makes young people smarter or otherwise. They simply establish a correlation between skill at certain online games of strategy and intelligence.


The researchers focused on 'Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas' (MOBAs), action strategy games that typically involve two opposing teams of five individuals -- as well as multiplayer 'First Person Shooter' games. These types of games are hugely popular with hundreds of millions of players worldwide.


The team from York's Departments of Psychology and Computer Science carried out two studies. The first examined a group of subjects who were highly experienced in the MOBA League of Legends, one of the most popular strategic video games in the world with millions of players each day.


In this study, the researchers observed a correlation between performance in the strategic game League of Legends and performance in standard paper-and-pencil intelligence tests.

The second study analysed big datasets from four games: Two MOBAs (League of Legends and Defence of the Ancients 2 (DOTA 2)) and two 'First Person Shooters' (Destiny and Battlefield 3). First Person Shooters (FPSs) are games involving shooting enemies and other targets, with the player viewing the action as though through the eyes of the character they are controlling.


In this second study, they found that for large groups consisting of thousands of players, performance in MOBAs and IQ behave in similar ways as players get older. But this effect was not found for First Person Shooters, where performance declined after the teens.


The researchers say the correlation between ability at action strategy video games such as League of Legends and Defence of the Ancients 2 (DOTA 2) and a high IQ is similar to the correlation seen in other more traditional strategy games such as chess.

According to one of the researchers, games such as League of Legends and DOTA 2 are complex, socially-interactive and intellectually demanding. This research would suggest that your performance in these games can be a measure of intelligence.


The discovery of this correlation between skill and intelligence opens up a huge new data source. For example, as 'proxy' tests of IQ, games could be useful at a global population level in fields such as 'cognitive epidemiology' -- research that examines the associations between intelligence and health across time -- and as a way of monitoring cognitive health across populations.


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