Their experiment compared the effect of playing Minecraft, with or without instruction, to watching a TV show or playing a race car video game.
Those given the freedom to play Minecraft without instruction were most creative, experts found.
Minecraft is like a virtual Lego world.
The game, which has sold more than 100 million copies, allows players to explore unique worlds and create anything they can imagine.
Study participants randomly assigned to play Minecraft were split into two groups.
The one receiving instruction was told to play as creatively as possible.
After 40 minutes of play or watching TV, the 352 participants completed several creativity tasks.
To measure creative production, they were asked to draw a creature from a world much different than Earth.
More human-like creatures scored low for creativity and those less human-like scored high.
Surprisingly, those instructed to be creative while playing Minecraft were the least creative.
Douglas Gentile, a professor of psychology from ISU who oversaw the study. says there's no clear explanation for this finding.
'It's not just that Minecraft can help induce creativity, there seems to be something about choosing to do it that also matters,' he said in a written statement.
In the paper, Professor Gentile, Jorge Blanco-Herrera - lead author and former master's student in psychology - and Jeffrey Rokkum, a former Ph.D. student in psychology, outlined possible reasons why the instructed Minecraft group scored lower.
Mr Blanco-Herrera says the instructions may have changed subjects' motivation for play.
'Being told to be creative may have actually limited their options while playing, resulting in a less creative experience,' he added.
'It's also possible they used all their "creative juices" while playing and had nothing left when it came time to complete the test.'
Most video games encourage players to practice some level of creativity.
For example, players may create a character and story for role-playing games or be rewarded for creative strategies in competitive games.
The researchers say even first-person shooter games can potentially inspire creativity as players think about strategy and look for advantages in combat.
'The research is starting to tell a more interesting, nuanced picture,' Professor Gentile added.
'Our results are similar to other gaming research in that you get better at what you practice, but how you practice might matter just as much.'
The Daily Mail
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