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How Video Games Boost Creativity

Hello, Filafriends! This October, we’re all about future-facing (21st-century) skills. Why? Because games and future-facing skills go hand-in-hand. Throughout this month, you’ll find out exactly why right here on the Filament Games blog! Today, we’re focusing on one of the four C’s of future-facing skills – creativity. 

via Giphy

To recap, the four C’s of future-facing skills are critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. Future-facing skills are skills that never go out of style and can be applied to almost any career and area of life. Previously on the blog, we’ve discussed how to use digital games to teach collaboration. If you’re curious or confused as to how games can foster a soft skill like collaboration or creativity, read on! Join in on the conversation on Facebook or Twitter too. 

The proof is in the pudding (and the principles)

While it may be a bit more complicated to assess people’s creative skills versus, say, their math skills, there have been some significant studies within the past decade linking gamers to higher levels of creativity. For example, a Michigan State University study featuring 500 12-year-olds found that “the more kids played video games, the more creative they were in tasks such as drawing pictures and writing stories.” 

A more recent Florida State University study also found that video games can enhance creativity, however, not all genres are created equal. Citing James Paul Gee’s co-design principle, researchers Seyedahmad Rahimi and Valerie Shute write “Video games with a high potential for enhancing creativity allow players to co-create the game (Gee, 2005). That is, the players are not just going through different levels to finish the game. Instead, video games that enhance creativity are open-ended and provide an environment in which the players can design new levels and express their creativity. For example, Minecraft, Portal 2, Crayon Physics Deluxe, Little Big Planet, Physics Playground, and others are sandbox and puzzle games with built-in level editors where players can design their own levels and expand the game via their creativity.” They go on to assert that sandbox games allow players to exercise their imagination without fear of failure. This is especially important, as an environment with fear of failure is not one that can foster much creativity. 

Learn more about James Paul Gee’s principles on gaming, like co-design, in the video below.

Flow in the creative classroom

If you’re in a creative career or have any creative hobbies, you’ve probably heard of the term “flow-state.” You’re doing a creative task, and suddenly, time melts away, you feel as though you don’t have to think – your creativity is just flowing effortlessly. There’s a theory behind this state of being, and it began with Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Learn more about flow below.

Can video games help facilitate flow? In a study, researcher Elizabeth Hutton and Penn State professor S. Shyam Sundar found that the level of creativity in their subjects was strongest at high points of emotion. In other words, energizing experiences enhance creativity. Sundar notes “‘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.’” 

In our increasingly digital world, video games are an exciting and popular realm for children and adults alike, with 60% of the American population playing video games daily. Allowing students to learn alongside their hobbies and passions, such as games, could make it easier for an educator to energize a classroom – leading to more creativity and imaginative problem-solving. 

From the classroom to the workplace

Previously on the blog, we covered how gaming and esports can serve as a pipeline to content creation and creative careers. To recap, content creators are storytellers. They may be writers, artists, developers, or a combination of these. Check out the following graphic from the North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF) to see a step-by-step representation of how students may go from games to creative careers.

via NASEF

However, K-12 students aren’t the only demographic that can benefit from the creativity-boosting power of video games! Adults of any age and any career can too. As Agnessa Spanellis, assistant professor Heriot-Watt University puts it: “Playing games, literally, is a powerful way of facilitating creative thinking, because it can lower the barriers of established behavioral norms and routines by offering new rules and sometimes even new realities.” Spanellis asserts that gamification in the workplace could be the key to innovation. Games are playful, and immersive, and allow employees to experiment with out-of-the-box thinking and step into new identities and roles. She writes “…a gamified environment gives people permission to think and behave differently, and this is where the magic starts to happen.” Games can transport us into worlds where the previously impossible is possible, and from there, into new creative heights. 

It’s important to note that creative thinking isn’t exclusive to conventional creative subjects (such as art or creative writing) either. For example, our upcoming sandbox game RoboCo is a STEM-focused game, but players must also use their creativity to build robots to conquer unique challenges. Creativity boosts problem-solving skills and allows people a less rigid way to move forward. Check out other games that boost creative skills on our portfolio, such as RoboCo, C.O.O.L. Kids Coloring, and more!

Interested in harnessing the creative power of educational video games? Get in touch with us today! 

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