For those who don’t play, or don’t have a son or daughter who has, according to Wikipedia, World of Warcraft is a "massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) With 10.2 million subscribers as of December 2011." World of Warcraft is currently the world's most-subscribed MMORPG, and holds the Guiness World Record for the most popular MMORPG by subscribers. As with other MMORPGs, players control a character avatar within a game world in third- or first-person view, exploring the landscape, fighting various monsters, completing quests, and interacting with non-player characters (NPCs) or other players.
Ok, so what does this have to do with brain health?
A couple of researchers, Anne McLaughlin and Jason Allaire, psychology professors at North Carolina State University, thought that the game would improve the cognitive ability in older adults. To test their theory, as reported by the LA Times, “the researchers asked thirty-nine adults ages 60 to 77 years old to play ‘World of Warcraft’ for roughly two hours a day for a two-week period.”
They found that the two weeks of playing didn’t have much of an effect on the people who had scored well on the baseline cognitive test, but there was a significant improvement in the spatial ability and focus for those who scored low on the initial test.
The results of the study were published in the peer reviewed journal Computers in Human Behavior.
In an interview with The Times, Allaire said he and McLaughlin looked at several different video games before settling on World of Warcraft as the one they would use for the study.
"It met a bunch of criteria we had," he said. "Primarily that it is really engaging and cognitively complex, so we chose a game that we thought would have the best chance of exercising older adults' cognitive abilities and thereby improving them."
Another benefit to the game is that it has what Allaire described as lots of scaffolding — tutorials that help someone who is not familiar with video games figure out how to make their way around the game. It also has a customizable interface so that text could be enlarged for players who might have trouble reading small print.
So am I going to start playing World of Warcraft? Probably not. Why? I'm not quite sixty.
Here’s a link to the Tribune article: http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-world-of-warcraft-boosts-cognitive-ability-20120223,0,5231884.story