Multiplayer Video Games

Researchers at the University of York have established a correlation between high intelligence and young people’s ability to do well in two popular video games.

According to research conducted at York’s Digital Creativity Labs (DC Labs), some action strategy video games can operate as IQ exams. The findings of the researchers were published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

The York researchers emphasize that the experiments do not influence whether or whether playing computer games makes young people smarter. They establish a link between intellect and skill in specific online strategy games.

The researchers looked at ‘Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas’ (MOBAs), which are action strategy games in which two opposing teams of five people compete against each other, as well as multiplayer ‘First Person Shooter’ games. Hundreds of millions of people play these types of games worldwide.


Two experiments were conducted by a team from York’s Psychology and Computer Science departments. The first looked at a group of people with a lot of expertise with the MOBA League of Legends, one of the most popular strategic video games on the planet, with millions of players every day.

In this study, the researchers discovered a link between performance in the strategic game League of Legends and performance on traditional paper-and-pencil IQ tests.

The second study looked at large datasets from four games: two MOBAs (League of Legends and Dota 2), as well as two “first-person shooters” (Destiny and Battlefield 3). First-person shooters (FPSs) are video games in which the player controls a character and shoots adversaries and other targets. The player sees the action through the eyes of the character they are holding.

In the second study, they discovered that performance in MOBAs and IQ behave similarly as players age in huge groups of thousands of players. However, there was no such effect in First Person Shooters, where performance dropped after the teens.

Intriguing to think about

According to the study, the association between skill in action strategy video games like League of Legends and Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2) and a high IQ is similar to that of more traditional strategy games like chess.

“Games like League of Legends and DOTA 2 are complicated, socially interactive, and intellectually demanding,” stated corresponding author Professor Alex Wade of the University of York’s Department of Psychology and Digital Creativity Labs. According to our findings, your performance in these games can be used to assess your intellect.

“In the past, research has shown that those who excel at strategic games like chess tend to perform well on IQ exams. Our research has expanded this to include games that millions of people play daily worldwide.”

source of information

The discovery of this link between intellect and skill opens up a huge new data source. Games, for example, could be beneficial at a worldwide population level as ‘proxy’ tests of IQ in fields like ‘cognitive epidemiology,’ which studies the relationships between intelligence and health across time, and as a way of monitoring cognitive health across populations.

The study’s principal author is Athanasios Kokkinakis, a Ph.D. student at York’s EPSRC Centre for Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence (IGGI) research program.

“Unlike First Person Shooter (FPS) games, which place a premium on speed and target precision, Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas place a premium on memory and the capacity to make strategic judgments based on several criteria,” he explained.

“Perhaps it’s for these reasons that we discovered a substantial association between MOBA competence and IQ.”


“This cutting-edge research has the potential for major influence on the future of the games and creative industries – and on games as a tool for research in health and psychology,” said co-author Professor Peter Cowling, Director of DC Labs and the IGGI program at York.