In the experimental study published in the Creativity Research Journal, the researchers analysed 352 participants. They compared the effects of playing Minecraft, with or without instruction, to watching a TV show or playing a race car video game.
After 40 minutes of play or watching TV, the 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.
It was found that those given the freedom to play Minecraft - a game that allows players to explore unique worlds and create anything they can imagine - without instructions were the most creative while those instructed to be creative while playing Minecraft were the least creative.
"It's not just that Minecraft can help induce creativity. There seems to be something about choosing to do it that also matters," said Douglas Gentile, Professor at the Iowa State University.
There is no clear explanation for this finding but there could be some possible reasons why the instructed Minecraft group scored lower, said study lead author Jorge Blanco-Herrera from the varsity.
"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.
"It's also possible they used all their 'creative juices' while playing and had nothing left when it came time to complete the test," he said.
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, said researchers.