Mastery of video games may indicate superior intellect, study finds

YORK, England — Mastery of certain video games may indicate an individual’s level of intelligence, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of York in the UK conducted two related studies analyzing the performance of hundreds of elite multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) players, hoping to see whether skill at these games was correlated with intellect.

People playing video games
A new study finds that people who excel at video games, particularly multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) titles, may have higher levels of intelligence. (Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash)

The first study, which examined thousands of highly-skilled League of Legends players, found that the cream of the crop also fared better on written IQ-related assessments.

Meanwhile, the second study put four popular video games under the microscope: two MOBAs (League of Legends and Dota 2), along with two first-person shooters (Destiny and Battlefield 3).

In this study, high-achieving MOBA players of all ages were once again found to have higher IQs, although there was little evidence of this correlation for those who solely played first-person shooters.

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“Research in the past has pointed to the fact that people who are good at strategy games such as chess tend to score highly at IQ tests,” says corresponding author, professor Alex Wade, in a university media release. Our research has extended this to games that millions of people across the planet play every day.”

The researchers note that the intellectual superiority of many MOBA players largely mirrors that documented of skilled chess players.

While chess may not enjoy the same popularity as gaming, the latter would appear to offer itself as a similarly “complex, socially-interactive, and intellectually demanding” diversion, argues co-author Alex Wade.

Athanasios Kokkinaki, the study’s lead author, explains that his team’s findings may present researchers with a “proxy” means of measuring IQ; one that could be particularly helpful with making comparisons across time and place.

“Unlike First Person Shooter (FPS) games where speed and target accuracy are a priority, Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas rely more on memory and the ability to make strategic decisions taking into account multiple factors,” Kokkinaki says of why he believes MOBAs provide such cognitive benefits. “It is perhaps for these reasons that we found a strong correlation between skill and intelligence in MOBAs.”

The study’s findings were published last week in the journal PLOS ONE.