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Posted by Raine Hutchens on Mar 15, 2012

Can Playing World of Warcraft Really Help Senior Citizens?

Blizzard’s smash-hit MMO World of Warcraft allows players to do many things, from creating vast suits of exquisite armor to traversing Azeroth on the wings of enormous beasts. Not to mention, players can tackle awe-inspiring foes as well as collect pockets full of gold. Players come in all ages, but how about the older gamers out there? Can WoW help the world’s senior citizens?

A study conducted by a North Carolina State University says that it, in fact, can. The study shows that there is a significant increase in cognitive ability. Apparently, repeatedly stabbing naga across the seas of Azeroth does have it’s benefits! In reality, however, the study was simple: provide a test to selected subjects that rate their cognitive level. The subjects were tested on areas like attention span, memory, and spatial reasoning. After the first test was administered, an “experimental” group of the participants played the MMO on their home computers, while a “control” group (basically the rest of the participants) didn’t play WoW at all. After two weeks the whole was tested once more. After comparing the results, the experimental group showed a much greater increase in cognitive ability, though the gain varied based on the tester’s original score.

Now I know there’s a question burning in all of your blazing minds: “Why WoW?” Well Dr. Anne McLaughlin, an assistant professor of psychology at NC State, explains their choice a bit. “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. We found there were improvements, but it depended on each participant’s baseline cognitive functioning level.”

This is pretty cool, to be honest. Using a video game in a study to prove some scientific theory is downright awesome. The study was conducted mostly on adults between the ages of 60-77, but it still has grounds. I’d like to see more studies like this come across the board, using many more of the great games out there. As an avid WoW player already, this news makes me quite proud.

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