In a new paper released last week, University of York researchers sought to examine whether research that strategy gaming (like chess and arcade games) correlates with intelligence holds true in the modern games like MOBAs. “In our current paper we extend their findings by asking whether we can establish a link between intelligence and performance in widely-played, commercial, team-based videogames with global reach,” the authors explain.
The researchers examined League of Legends and Dota 2 players, comparing their ranks to their results on a fluid intelligence test and attempting to disentangle all of that from teamwork ability, practice, and age by comparing the results to those from more twitch-oriented games like Destiny and Battlefield 3 – easier said than done, since apparently there aren’t a lot of “olds” playing some of these titles – and the general population’s performance on fluid intelligence tests by age. The result?
“Overall, we found that MOBA-genre performance profiles followed a ‘low,high,low’ pattern where performance peaked in the 22–27 year old age group. In comparison, FPS performance followed a ‘high,high,low’ pattern suggesting that younger players had a relative advantage in this genre and that performance decreases monotonically with age. […] Raw (un-normalized) fluid intelligence scores usually peak in the mid-20s . This also appears to be the approximate peak of video game performance in MOBAs that depend on a mixture of memory, tactics, strategy and reaction time (Fig 2) while games that emphasise more reaction times and hand-eye coordination (for example, FPS-type games) appear to advantage younger players.”
In short? “People who are good at a certain type of popular video game also tend to have high IQs. They are really good at problem solving and at manipulating shapes in their head. Formally: we measured the IQ of people who are expert at the game League of Legends and found that it correlated with their global ranking.”
What the researchers couldn’t determine is causality, which is to say that it is unclear whether people with high fluid intelligence gravitate toward these types of games (and then stick around long enough to practice and acquire high ranks) or the games themselves improve fluid intelligence (in concert with research on how action video games can train people’s visuospatial performance), though they say they suspect the former is more likely.
The whole article is open source, as are the data and the (extremely good) FAQ, so you can go take a peek yourself if you’re so inclined. It would be the intelligent thing to do, after all.